Brain Pickings

The Life and Death of Mountains


The humility of understanding how Earth’s most monumental creations crumble to the bottom of the sea.

Some years ago, I discovered and fell in love with the work of filmmaker, illustrator, and composer Temujin Doran, who makes incredibly thoughtful and poetic documentary-style cinematic meditations on everything from the rise of mass media to the beauty of the vowels to the joy of illustration to the art of protest. Now comes The Weight of Mountains — a magnificent short film about the life-cycle of mountains and the interlaced processes by which they are born and eventually laid to rest. Inspired by the work of legendary British geographer prolific author L. Dudley Stamp, the film was shot in Iceland and features animation from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio.

Best experienced in full-screen.

Despite their great size and age, their lives pan out in much the same way that a living creature’s does: They have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and as such, the life of a mountain mimics our own — it is a life that carries the weight of being and anticipation of sadness that one day things will change.

For another poetic take on Earth’s cycles of life, see the breathtaking animation Whale Fall.

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