by Leslie Anthony
There they were, some of the world’s most vaunted big-mountain athletes, kneeling on the floor of the Telus Convention Centre on a rainy night in Whistler. Up high snow was falling in bucketloads while the crew signed posters for hordes of excited… adults. To be sure a few kids’ heads poked out from the picket of legs fronting the likes of Ingrid Backstrom, Mark Abma, JP Auclair, Kye Petersen, Callum Pettit, Chris Rubens, Eric Hjorleifson, Ian McIntosh, Johnny and Angel Collinson, and others. It was otherwise obvious, however, that the world premiere of Into the Mind—much-anticipated follow-up to Sherpas Cinema’s record-breaking, genre-smashing All.I.Can—was an adult affair, and the anticipated cerebral component proved so in the film’s opening sequence, where an editing tour-de-force built around Karma Tsering Sherpa—a top spiritual figure in Nepalese Sherpa culture—niftily establishes the main themes, whether as lofty and poetic as soul and connection, or as grounded as outdoor pursuits and risk management.
Certainly the mostly Red Epic-collected visuals are stunning, the skiing and riding all-time, and the edit pacing conducive to modern-media-trained young brains. But the concepts which make for overall cohesion are, in the fashion we’ve come to expect from the Sherpas, alternately subtle and overwhelming, there and then gone, begging and then taunting. As Eric Crossland told a National Geographic interviewer of the title’s avowed declaration: “It’s visually achieved through the aesthetic and feeling of the film’s cinematography. On one hand Into the Mind is a style of shot—a feeling of entering and ending up in another location. Like going through a door. On the other hand it’s a dreamscape or a separate film reality.”
If, as a viewer, you care at all about the process behind art, these ideas must be excavated, examined, and held up for analysis; then linked, distilled, and allowed to settle—clearly no children’s game. In fact, it’s barely something that fans of ski porn or those not given to intellectualizing can—or will want to—engage in. This isn’t a problem, of course, because as with other high-concept movies, in bit and part Into the Mind is still accessible. Like an art gallery, somewhere in the entirety of its contents can be found something for everyone: whether in the landscapes of Canada, Alaska, Bolivia, and the Himalaya; in intimate portrayals of the elements; in Callum Pettit slaying Bella Coola faces in an aerial context never before seen; or a nighttime urban duel courtesy of—who else—JP Auclair.
Beyond these simpler takeaways, of course, the intellectualizing in Whistler began immediately. While the usual action-sport movie cheers were few and far between, the low level buzz of chatter/questioning during the film was non-stop. Athletes like Julian Carr were tweeting: “Honored to be part of this talented rowdy crew! Sherpas Cinema #intothemindworldpremiere last night at Whistler Blackcomb. Movie is a #mindmelter.” Friends were already messaging me: “Did you go? Was it awesome? Were you impressed, underwhelmed?” My answer, if I’d furnished one, would have been: yes, yes and yes. And this would be a good thing.
That’s because I’ve trained myself not to have an immediate opinion of anything with depth. And not just because I think a two-year mega-project like this deserves more than a knee-jerk reaction/impression. Some of it is context: a movie like this is entirely different when watched in a room that doesn’t include 2,000 other people. I liken it to the first time I rented Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A space odyssey for home-alone viewing after seeing it in a theatre as a kid: whole new ball game.
Ultimately, evaluating Into the Mind will be an exercise in melding impressions with analytical thinking. I’ll need to take my time. And be careful what I think. As the Buddha himself once said: “The mind is everything. What you think you become.”