“Cinematic Mountains” Special Issue 21.1 (Spring 2023)

Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, 2014)

Guest Editors: Cornelia Klecker & Christian Quendler

Introduction: Cinematic Figuration of Mountains


Highroads and Skyroads: Mountain Roadbuilding in U.S. Government Films of the 1920s and 30s

By Jennifer Peterson

EXCERPT: It might seem contradictory that films about national forests and national parks would foreground roadbuilding, but I argue that infrastructural display is a central motif of films about nature. The implication is that human-built infrastructure is as strong and timeless as the mountains themselves. Such an implication is incorrect, but such was the belief of many in the high modernist era.

Imagining Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy): Two Landscapes of the Anthropocene, 1970 and 2014

By Sean Cubitt

EXCERPT: Mountains are invisible. You can only ever see parts, some surfaces disposed towards you, not the further slopes, often not the depths of clefts and gullies, never the internal rock. And if you enter a mountain cave, the rest of the mountain disappears. This does not mean that mountains do not exist. On the contrary, their reality is constantly with us but mediated: the weather they create, the flows of water, the tumbling rocks, fluctuations in compasses and wealth dug from their interiors. It is rather that, for want of being able to see a mountain as a whole, we must imagine it.

Ambiguous Images of Soviet-Kyrgyz Mountainscapes in The Sky of Our Childhood (1966)

By Anna Ladinig

EXCERPT: This article explores how mountainscapes constitute and interweave ‘Sovietness’ and ‘Kyrgyzness’ with reference to the 1966 film The Sky of Our Childhood (Nebo nashego detstva, 1966), directed by Tolomush Okeyev. The mountainscape serves not as a mere backdrop to the narrative but expresses ambiguities as a result of its transformative power.

Cinematic Cultures of Descent: The Other Sides of the Mountaineering Story

By Eva-Maria Müller

EXCERPT: Furthermore, if ascent is a distinctive feature of many classic mountain films, descent promises a meaningful way in which to broaden the genre. Thinking about mountains through cultures of descent thus not only offers a long overdue corrective to orthodox approaches in mountain studies, it also highlights the special role of film in facilitating a change of perspective and allows us a better understanding of socio-ecological concerns that come to the fore via mediations of descent.

Revisiting Brokeback Mountain: How Mountains Matter, or: Melodrama, Melancholy, (Im-)Mobility

By Sabine Sielke

EXCERPT: Thus intoned and with no peaks or pillars on the horizon, this frontier is certainly not a recognizable “heroic West.” Neither is it located in the Southwest or Texas which has long become the “wasteland of oil derricks” (Cawelti 1998, 17) and commerce (of agricultural machinery, for instance). Rather, it is the deserts of their domestic households Ennis and Jack escape from into a richly fecund pioneer territory – a move resonating with both the clichéd flight of innumerable American “heroes” from civilization and “the cult of mountains” as an imagined space of resistance…

Related Events and Publications

Delocating Mountains: Cinematic Landscapes and the Alpine Model

Mediating Mountains: 46th International Conference of the AAAS

Mediating Mountains: Journal of the Austrian Association for American Studies