Somewhat akin to Samsara (cross-reference below) director Milko Lazarov (along with co-writer Simeon Ventsislasov) has created a masterpiece of storytelling where the sparse bit of dialogue is most certainly far overshadowed by the images.
Almost best in show is the opening mouth harp overture—cheers to more of that!
Seeing this just two days after Greta Thunberg’s worldwide day of protest about climate change—September 27—was particularly timely.
Cinematographer Kayolan Bozhilov has captured the beauty and desolation of the far North like few others. The frequent longshots add as much to the story as they do to our understanding of life where, if you do not have a successful hunt, you will go hungry at dinnertime. Veselka Kiryakova’s crisp editing is at one with the artistic trust.
Penka Kouneva’s original score gets a mighty assist from excerpts of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, further bridging the gap between all worlds of imagination (the dream recollection from fading matriarch Sedna—Feodosia Ivanova is superb in her grit and honesty—is a truly marvellous metaphor for what life could/might have been).
Devoted husband, Nanook (Mikhail Asprosimov—miles away from the 1922 silent), goes about his business trapping, hunting, fishing and surviving, perpetually accompanied by the family’s ever -faithful husky.
Over time, what appears to be a documentary about life in the remote North, takes a sudden turn with the appearance (via snowmobile, no less) of Chena (Sergei Egorov delights the camera with every frame), who serves as the “glue” to the traditional couple’s relationship with their wayward daughter (to them—she has abandoned “regular” life for a far more lucrative career mining diamonds).
Inevitably (or there’s no movie), Nanook is forced to visit his “worldly” daughter, bearing a special gift: an Arctic fox headdress (lovingly stitched together by her long-suffering mother), fit for a queen.
Nanook’s journey (potentially derailed by ice roads that are dangerously melting—see protests, above) finally ends in an ugly mining pit that offers the most striking images of the entire production. The “man of the land” looking hopelessly on to his “modern” daughter, willfully participating in the rape of their land.
Not surprisingly, thankfully, no words are spoken—the camera, again, speaking louder than words.
Sadly, an upbeat song fuelled the credits, largely diminishing all that had been accomplished to date.
Sometimes, less is more. JWR