Film Review: Into The Mind

Sherpas Cinema’s latest film gets into your head

Last night was the first time I’ve ever heard anyone get shushed at a ski movie. Somebody gave a whoop when Callum Pettit cleaned a huge Bella Coola face in three turns, and a person sitting near them let out a “Shhhhhhhh.” “Shut up,” they seemed to be saying. “I’m concentrating here.”

Into The Mind, the two-year project from Sherpas Cinema, requires that level of concentration. A follow-up is hard, especially when your previous effort is such a stand out. With 2011’s All.I.Can., which won Movie of the Year at the 2012 Powder Awards, the Sherpas cracked the formula of formulaic ski movies, and when they made Into The Mind, they didn’t temper their ambitions. This time they tried, understandably, to go huge, to showcase all of their cinematographic talents and to tell a sweeping, multi-layered story about why the mountains keep pulling us back in, and what we’re willing to risk for skiing.

They could have just as easily called it Into The Body, because the whole film feels physical. The music seems like it’s in the same time signature as a beating heart, the movie moves so fast that you never quite get a chance to catch your breath. It’s a patchwork of landscapes, with a lot of back and forth and a lot of tightly-edited cuts. The ski segments—like Chris Rubens stomping pillow lines at Eagle Pass, B.C., and Ian McIntosh straightlining near-vertical faces in Denali—seem calm in comparison, like you’re getting a chance to stretch after being clenched for a long time.

PHOTO: Sherpas Cinema

Co-Director Dave Mossop on location in Nepal. PHOTO: Sherpas Cinema

Check out the photo gallery of the Into The Mind world premiere in Whistler.

The film is cut in 12 chapters pegged to the circle of life, and it follows a skier’s fascination with skiing a single line and the decision-making, both good and bad, that goes into it. There isn’t much dialogue, and sometimes the storyline is a little loose. You have to connect the segments in your head. The chapter titled “Death,” which follows Johnny Collinson, Kris Erickson, and Kye Petersen to Bolivia, is particularly poignant. You watch Kye—who lost his dad to skiing—get blessed by a local shaman, then head back up into the mountains.

It’s an unquestionably beautiful film. Sometimes the shooting is so vivid it doesn’t feel real. The Sherpas teamed with the equally talented Camp 4 Collective, and it’s clear that they were able to capitalize on each others’ strengths. During the opening segment at Snowwater, B.C., the guy sitting next to me let out an almost-orgasmic, I-want-to-be-there groan as Callum Pettit trenched a hyperslow head-deep powder turn. That guy was Mark Abma, who gets to do that all the time.

PHOTO: Sherpas Cinema

Mossop films from a helicopter high in the Himalaya. PHOTO: Sherpas Cinema

Read a Q&A with Sherpas Co-Director Eric Crosland, who details their goals with Into The Mind

There are points where it feels like they’re trying to be overly ambitious in their editing and narrative, and some of the post-production work seems heavy handed. I’m guessing it’s the pressure of the follow-up, but I wish they’d relaxed a little bit, and let the things that they’re really good at shine. I wanted more creative skiing shots and less CGI season changes.

Into The Mind isn’t exactly a stoke film. It’s definitely not your standard preseason pump-up jam, although plenty of incredible skiing exists, like Julian Carr’s descent of Air Jordan—the huge inbounds cliff at Whistler. At the after party there was a lot of, “So what did you think about it?” I’m still trying to figure that out today. I want to watch it again—maybe somewhere that no one can shush me—to see what else I can pull from it. The movie got into my mind, it’s still there, and I think it will stick with me through the season.

Into The Mind can be purchased and downloaded now on iTunes.

Add a comment

  • Doug Phillips

    I have watched it twice already. I think your review is on point. Most importantly you can feel the passion put into the film and that is what matters.

  • jonathan__c

    I’ve watched it 5 times since Monday. My first impression was “Holy shitballs this is freaking insane!” followed by a lot of eyebrow furrowing, followed by watching it again… and again. And I expect to keep watching it again and again… because it needs to be watched again and again. This review is spot on in sense that the feeling I get is “I don’t know wtf i’m watching, but holy hell it’s bloody inspiring!” I think you’re point about it NOT being a stoke film is incorrect though.

    I think this is THE stoke film for this generation of alpinists and skiers. At least since All I Can and Further, and in many ways, even more so than those. See, the thing is, it’s not a stoke film for the kids who like to spend weekends at the half pipe…. no, this is a pure alpinist stoke film. The ski generation of the 90′s have grown up, and that’s who this film is made by, and who it’s made for – ski-mountaineers, alpinists, backcountry skiers, couloir shooters, skin track lovers and other masochistic types. It’s huge mountains, huge lines, and a lot of effort to get there. That’s where skiing is going, and that’s where this movie brings us. I’m stoked. I can’t wait to watch it again. Actually, going to do that now.

  • sthrendyle

    They are all great guys and deserve huge props for trying. The story gets away from them a bit and the CGI effects are over the top, but each of us needs to see it and make up our minds. Into the mind, indeed.

  • Krisco

    First I want to say that I absolutely loved All I Can and my expectations for Into the Mind were very high. Watched Into the Mind last night and was very disappointed.

    I get it that Sherpas Cinema are extremely talented behind the camera and have a unique / different way of presenting a ski film. But after a while I just want to see skiing, rowdy, balls to the wall big mountain riding. It seems that Sherpas was trying to hard. Too many time lapses, crazy camera rotations, and what not. It’s cool but it just seemed like that was all the movie was. Not enough skiing in my opinion. I mean this is a ski film after all.

    I always appreciate a new vision / twist on ski films but this was just a miss for me.

    • buki

      Yes, man, yes! That’s exactly what I was thinking!

  • NWskierguy

    I’ve downloaded via iTunes and will be watching on my flight tomorrow, can’t wait

  • goggs

    I watched the premiere in London UK, and have since watched it back several times. I would defiantly say it is a ‘marmite’ film, might not be to everyones taste buds. But I truly think that whether you dig the film or not – Sherpas are setting the bench mark for making snow films.

    I watching PoorBoyz “Tracing Skylines” a few weeks back … its cool, rad tricks. .. but, i don’t find myself engaging with it in the slightest. Theres no story, no narrative. Ive maybe watched it a couple times. Where as i havent owned Into The Mind for a week yet and ive watched it a dozen times at least! Everyday! It is excellent, I like it better each watch. I think what they have done takes big balls. For me, any film now that doesnt tell a story just doesnt cut it …. Give it a few years, other films will start to follow, gone are the days where films are just shots of big airs and run after run after run …. thats not good enough, and not creative enough. Sherpas cinema are setting the bar for other film makers out there!

  • Skibum

    Just saw it last night and thought it was a huge disappointment. The acting was terrible and the effects took away from the few actual ski shots that existed. The over the too animal scenes mixed with surfering scenes and that one strange scene of skiing in the city at night made it feel like a poorly organized, ADHD 80s ski film. Hue miss on this one.

  • Niel

    Too much nature channel, too little skiing. Definitely had really good elements but coming dizzy out of the cinema is not the desired state of mind I guess. I was so excited for this movie, which makes the reality even more of a let down. The post production took it out of the movie. The urban scene was really sweet though. A saying goes: Unless you are George Lucas, stick with dissolve..

  • OP

    Loved it and hated it at the same time.

    Awesome boundary pushing but over done. Effects are suppose to pop up once or twice and dazzle the audience, not over kill them with it 100 times. Far too many motifs eg birds, spinny sherpa guy etc. Not enough skiing, what skiing was there was tarnished by post production. “Look at what I can do on my computer”. Should of been pitched as an art film. Some athletes got about 8 seconds of footage – whilst I think the CGI birds got more screen time.

    It will be looked back on as ground breaking and appreciated for that – right now I think I’m going to watch a ski film that has skiing.

    Thanks to Sherpa for making everyone else step up! Maybe remember if you say its a ski film have some skiing that we can watch for the skiing, not After Effects.

  • rob

    Best ski movie I have seen. I watch some ski movies and think cool but not in a rush to see that again. I really cant wait to see this film again, I think it is one of those films where you will see different things every time you watch it. They really nailed it with the soundtrack. Enjoyed that it had some other perspectives and not 100% ski porn

  • nine

    i saw Into The Mind at the premiere in vancouver. the movie was a huge let down and is definitely not a stoke movie – which fair enough as the director even said at the beginning: “this is not a ski porn movie.”

    the movie just felt very contrived and melodramatic. if they were trying to portray the passion of people being drawn to the mountains then it certainly failed on a guy who has skied for the better part of 25 years. the movie is 20% skiing, 80% fancy shots of nature.

    i actually feel bad for the athletes that were in this film who are throwing down these huge lines. the film just glosses over it and gives more film time to a tibetan dude spinning a string. yes i get that nature is cyclical – we dont need to be reminded every 3 minutes. it was like watching an hour long demo reel. you could tell the sold out audience at the vogue was very confused. i give props for them trying something different, but it’s definitely not a direction i hope the industry takes.

    • tom

      “it and gives more film time to a tibetan dude spinning a string” – that was really annoying. You start getting focused and that dude – again and again… :)

      • Roxette Mabellon

        I guess you are a bunch of old guys. This movie is by far the best movie I’ve even seen. It’s your lose you can’t understand the amazingness of it. I wish you a nice *and prolly a common* live

  • Flo

    Don’t ski much anymore or do any extreme sport but I have great respect for those who do! A love of wilderness experience/adventure brought me to this film.
    I loved it and hated it. At times I was absorbed by the beauty, amazed by the courage & strength of the athletes, moved by the spirituality/sacredness & history of these places and their people. At other times I felt like I was watching a commercial for North Face.

  • D

    this was a breath of fresh air compared to the repetitive ski films that have been put out over the last few years. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s by far the most original ski movie to date.

  • MCF

    Spectacular nature photography and very little skiing. The editing of this film is terrible. They have tried to make a cerebral ski movie, and I appreciate that, but it just didn’t work the way they did it. In my opinion, this movie is very fragmented, with little focus, lots of jumping around, and a story that leaves you wondering what they were trying to say.

    There was too much emphasis on rolling cameras and CGI summer/winter effects. The viewer gets teased with several seconds of skiing followed by random nature shots and events. I suppose the movie makes sense if you imagine a surreal drug-induced state of mind.

  • irieline

    This movie didn’t work for me or anyone I’ve talked to about it. Too many special effects. Too many closeups. Pretentious spirituality. Heavy & serious nearly all the way through. I didn’t have fun watching this one & felt less excited about ski season when it was over. Considering there were only like 5 words spoken throughout the entire movie, I can’t be sure what they were going for but boy did it feel labored. My sense is that a documentary about ski movies, athlete deaths, & the trend of ever-increasing risk required to be in films would have been much more compelling.

  • N

    They just tried to do too many things at once. You can’t successfully compile awesome skiing, thoughtful reflection on human behaviour, and weird nature documentary all into an 85 minute film. I hope the Sherpas take the time to look back over Into The Mind and understand that sometimes in film making less is more. There was no need to have 5 minute long segments of shots which don’t last longer than 2 seconds; that tactic works well in trailers but no one can put up with it for over an hour. Scenes like Benny’s half pipe segment are best left to Hollywood, no ski movie will ever have a large enough budget to make a scene like that work. If the entire movie had looked more like Bella Coola and Denali I think it could have potentially surpassed All.I.Can. Overall a good movie, the great segments balance out the poor ones. Still hoping for more from Dave and Eric next time.

  • Chris

    Too much style, short on substance; which is made worse because they were too obviously trying to make a heavy, heady movie. I will still look forward to their next film though.

  • Matty V

    I just saw this film today and found it utterly inspiring. I’m not a skiier…(?), skier…(?), person who skis (I’ve only seen snow twice in my life :( ); but I found this film utterly beautiful, the cinematography in it is absolutely top-notch! Furthermore, I’m not convinced that this film is trying to be strictly a ski-film, it seems to me to be a film about what drives people to engage in nature sports in general, but using skiing as the primary focus.
    Seriously, how many times do you need to see the same movie about some “rad-dudes” doing “insane shit” with fills of personalities coming across as reprehensible cock-tards? It doesn’t matter what your sport is, if you’ve seen an “extreme” video representation of that sport and its personalities, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
    Personally, I felt that this film was more in line with productions like Baraka and Koyaanisqatsi et al., that attempt to engage the attentions of the viewer without anchoring them to a strict narrative.
    I think this film aims to be bigger than killer turns and huge airs, and I think it succeeds. I’d recommend it to anyone, regardless of their status as a skiier…, skier…, person who skis.

  • BlakeVW

    Worst “ski” movie ever made. How can a production company go from making the greatest ski move ever, to the worst?

  • Roger

    I have never watched anything that has remained with me so vividly, for so long. Just incredible.

  • Roxette Mabellon

    I’m surprised by the comments here. Because for me it was the most amazing, best edited, best compiled and best ever movie I’ve ever ever saw. Probably the people here stuck in the past and don’t understand how to use the the modern techniques. Probably it’s like Van Gogh’s paintings. He never sold a painting when he was alive. Probably it need some decades before people understand how awesome this movie is. The skiing is really breath taking amazing. The editing is unusual and best I ever saw. The music, the script, all are fit in to the most perfect I saw.

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