★★★★ Directed by: Dermot Daly and Ivan Mack Starring: Emma Leah Golding, Ahmed Sher Zaman Short Film Review by: Darren Tilby
A fabulous and pensive piece on loss and acceptance, Excursion to the Mountains covers much in its 3:33 running time.
Starting with a woman, Eve (brilliantly played by Emma Leah Golding) staring out of her window toward remote mountains in reminiscence, grieving a lost love. The film then proceeds to follow Eve as she recalls the good times and learns to cope with the pain: flitting between the present and flashbacks of a happier past, which are shot using a home video technique.
The decision to use this particular medium is a solid one; adding to the movie’s primary notion that memories are important. There’s no dialogue in the film, and as such, we never discover exactly what happened to cause the breakdown of this relationship; something that drove me mad, in the best possible way: we can presume it had something to do with the titular outing, but we’re never really sure. Did he leave her? Did one of them have an affair? Did he die tragically?
It’s to the film’s credit we never find out, it forces our imagination to work overtime; considering every possibility. My suspicion is the relationship ended badly in some way, causing a good deal of animosity: in one scene, Eve removes photos of herself and Adam (Ahmed Sher Zaman), her now ex, taken at a party; carelessly discarding them. To me, these represent the actions of someone angry, rather than someone mourning. The more I watch this film the more I notice these slight, understated clues hidden throughout.
All that said and done, it doesn’t matter: we simply sympathise with Eve on a personal level; we’ve all experienced loss in one way or another. But the sheer fact I’ve spent as much time and effort scrutinising every detail in the frame, every nuance of Golding’s character, says more than words ever could on the film’s efficacy.
The soundtrack is another rather understated affair; allowing the silence to conjure the sense of desolate loneliness to great success.
The film uses the camera to aid the storytelling in an innovative and astute way: whether it’s lingering on photos strewn across a sitting room floor or peering longingly out of a window at distant mountains, the cinematography – despite there being a few missteps with camera framing – rarely misses the mark. The camera – effectively being utilized as dialogue – expands our knowledge of the past and events that have transpired; never resorting to crass exposition. Despite the few issues with framing, this is an incredible effort. Excursion to the Mountains is a film whose parts come together superbly; an exquisitely wrapped package, small, but in no way lacking substance. Guillermo del Toro once said, “I try to tell you a story with what I call eye-protein, not eye-candy”. The implication being eye-candy is something which may look nice but is ultimately hollow and meaningless, but with eye-protein, nothing on-screen is wasted; feeding the narrative. Thankfully, directors Dermot Daly and Ivan Mack have opted for the eye-protein method.