‘The Mountain’: Science Gone Mad
Poetic Spin on Controversial Lobotomist
The Mountain is your not-so-basic, anti-clinical chronicling of the barbaric transorbital lobotomy practice. Innovative director Rick Alverson more or less restrains his wilder cinematic instincts in this loosely adapted story about real-life traveling lobotomist Walter Freeman (Jeff Goldblum, the right eccentric for the role) and Andy, his young photographer/assistant/son-of-a-lobotomy victim (Tye Sheridan, of Mud fame). The pair whizz around American mental institutions in dreamy slow-mo with surgical ice pick and Polaroid camera in tow. Andy is shy, a lost soul open to supernatural possibilities: Freeman represents cynical hucksterism and science-gone-mad, a negation of the ’50s ideal of better-living-through-progress. Along with kitschy era period piecework, Alverson brings his experimental touch and detached ambience to the story (aided by music of Messiaen and other atmospheric source music), putting us partly in the curious and understated observational mindset of Andy. In the film’s bizarre coda section, Andy finds a wounded soulmate in Susan (Hannah Gross). In all, the film comes across as a poetic spin on a controversial American eccentric, like Paul Thomas Anderson’s L. Ron Hubbard saga The Master, also about a charismatic Svengali and his innocent sidekick.