Filmmaker 5 with Christian EInshøj: The Mountains
Armed with 30 years of home-video, 75,000 family photos and three tightly fit superhero costumes, director Christian Einshøj visits his family’s past and traverses its present, confronting a 25-year-old tragedy that changed everything. In a story of fathers and sons and of brothers, he embarks on a journey of redemption and reconciliation, pushing to break through the walls keeping his family apart.
Director / Editor / Writer / Cinematographer Christian EInshøj is a self-taught director and film editor born in Denmark in 1985 but raised in a Norwegian suburb. His editing credits include Bodil award winning Q’s Barbershop (2019). In 2018 his short doc Haunted was awarded Best International Short at HotDocs and went on to play at festivals around the world. The Mountains is his first feature film.
In advance of its international premiere at the 2023 Hot Docs Festival, Classic Couple Academy asked Christian EInshøj about The Mountains.
Filmmaker 5.1: Visiting your family’s past, you sifted through years of family videos, boxes of discovered hobby footage, and thousands of photos to make the film, presenting you with an extraordinary editing process. Out of all this source material, how was the content to include in the film revealed to you?
It was a very slow, and not very structured process. I started with just sequences of memories that I thought would fit into the film somewhere, without knowing how or where. Lots of stuff ended up on the cutting room floor. Later it became more like problem solving, where I had to dig into the past, in order to make the story work.
Filmmaker 5.2: You combine all the archival material with present day in-person interviews and on-location action shots—with some superhero costumes thrown into the mix. Can you describe your artistic vision for how to film the current material?
Locations are very important in this regard. The visual ideas I had were typically limited to bringing a certain character to a certain place, and then everything would spring from that meeting. I use the location to describe the character. My newly fired CEO dad is in the suburbs, my recently divorced workaholic brother in the financial district of the Norwegian capital and my slacker brother in a Spanish beach resort.
Filmmaker 5.3: Your father took up videography to memorialize family moments, focusing on your brother. As a young boy you took up videography of the same approach, focusing on your youngest brother. As you undertook making The Mountains, did you achieve a new understanding of your father as a filmmaker, as a father, a man—and who you are in relation to him as a filmmaker, a son, a man?
Going through the archive, I was struck by how beautiful some of my dad’s images were. He was a businessman all his life, but he really had an artistic vein that sort of went unacknowledged. When I started working with film in my 20’s, I saw myself as doing something totally different than my dad, but really I’m just following this artistic impulse that he didn’t allow himself to pursue in the same way.
Filmmaker 5.4: You narrate much of the film, sharing your innermost thoughts about your family’s past, your own present struggles, and your effort to reunite your family for the future. Was this narration a spontaneous activity as you moved through filming, or did you introduce the structure after filming once you knew the story you had to tell?
All the narration came after filming. When I started editing, most of the film was already shot. I had vague ideas about where I wanted to go, but the story was really created while writing narration and assembling images, which was a process that lasted for three years.
Filmmaker 5.5: The concept of knowing your family—and never really knowing them—plays out in The Mountains. At the end of this filmmaking experience, what did you know for sure?
I guess it was revealed to me that there’s always more beneath the surface. Someone you feel you know very well, so well that it bores you to tears, might be carrying a heartbreaking secret that he doesn’t dare to tell anyone.
BONUS QUESTION: What do you recommend most about running through the mountains in a superhero costume?
If you’re easily embarrassed, I’d recommend finding a private spot free from onlookers. Other than that, try not to trip in your cape. If you’re wearing a mask, make sure it’s not impairing your sight. Wear good shoes. Go nuts.