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The Highest Pass (2011)

| September 21, 2011 | 0 Comments

All his life, Adam Schomer has been seeking a spirit guide, a guru to help him find his true purpose.  “Since I was a kid, I’ve been wanting a guru, a wise teacher,” he says, “I think we all want that.”  He found his guru in the place you would most likely expect him to find one: India.  Adam is, we’re not surprised, a very spiritual guy, someone who is prone to meditation and ritualistic practices in order to calm his spirit.  Whether you follow his beliefs or you disregard them as a lot of nonsensical hooey, you have to admire Schomer for his willingness to travel all the way to India to gain an understanding of his place in the universe.

Schomer’s search for a guru led him, not to an ancient wise man, but to a good-looking 28 year-old Indian native named Anand Mehorta, whose birth chart led – rather unnervingly – to the information that he would die in an accident at an early age.  That Anand was so willing to lead Adam and six other travelers on a perilous journey on motorcycles to the highest pass in The Himalayas might make perfect sense; for Anand and for Adam, getting there might just help them achieve their individual destinies.

Jon Fitzgerald’s documentary The Highest Pass charts that journey.  The film is evenly split into two distinctive purposes; one is the spiritual journey, the other a lovely travelogue as seven travelers take the journey up the mountains into The Himalayas on motorcycles.  The landscapes are breathtaking, reminding me of the photography that I saw as a kid in the pages of National Geographic.  We see this not only in the mountains but in the faces and in the customs of the locals along the way.

We learn a lot about the road up to those ancient mountains, most strikingly is how easy it is to get hit by oncoming trucks moving in the opposite direction.  The roads are narrow, dotted with potholes and are not really suitable for trucks to pass oncoming traffic.  Two accidents occur among the group, but thankfully nothing serious.  One of the more serious incidents happens to Brooks Hale, a youthful Broadway producer whose incident nearly makes him rethink what he has gotten himself into.  He never says this, but we openly sense it in his anxiety.

Brooks becomes a voice of logic, especially when it becomes apparent that Anand may not know exactly what he’s doing.  Reaching the snowy roads leading into the mountains, Anand wrecklessly leads the crew onward even though he has been told that the snow on the roads won’t be clear for another two days.  Perhaps this comes from inexperience, wrecklessness or just the information that Anand’s birth chart told him that his time was short.  What has he got to lose?  That may be true, but we are left to wonder why he is so eager to expose others to this rather suicidal trek?

As you might expect, the destination is not the point. What lies at the highest pass is not exactly suprising, but the point of the movie is the journey getting there. Much of the movie is taken over by perils along the way. Anderson has created a documentary that often doesn’t feel so much like a feature film as one of those curios that shows up every now and then on The Travel Channel (with a helping of two songs by Jon Anderson of the band Yes). The film is divided, unevenly, between the journey and spiritual philosophy that is spelled out in a lot of talking head interviews, mostly be Schomer himself. That’s both a credit and a curse. We get to know a great deal about Adam, but many of his fellow travellers, are left as shadows in the backgrounds. We never really get to know the other members of the group as well as we might like.  They are seen in fleeting interviews but we wonder about who they are.  One of the most interesting is Ariane de Bonvoison, a twenty-something free spirit who admits that social standards dictate that a woman her age should be married and raising kids.  Clearly she has another purpose for her life, and I would like for the movie to have explored that.  The film moves long at a brief 92 minutes and with that, there simply isn’t time to get to know everyone.

I think I would like to have a least one scene where they sit and have lunch and talk about what brought them to India in the first place.  We see some colorful characters but that’s all they are.  There’s not much profound here except a lot of spiritual theology, that you have either brought into the film with you aren’t likely to be moved to pursue. Still, The Highest Pass is a well-made, beautiful looking documentary that may not change your life, but is entertaining all the same.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2011) View IMDB Filed in: Documentary, Indie