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.
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.
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.