Friday, June 26, 2009

Far North (2007)

If you are looking for a quiet movie that ends with a disturbing bang, Far North is ready to serve. My only exposure had been the enticing trailer, which featured two women living a desolate existence until a rough-faced man enters and their solidarity is challenged. This is what happens. There's a sci-fi aspect in that there's some type of army of men (some with European accents) who randomly kill tribes and stragglers (not sure why).

The surreal barren landscape of the Arctic tundra is prominent enough to be a character. The struggle against it and to survive in it and against the military men that prey on those they encounter.

Saiva (Michelle Yeoh) has been abandoned twice. At birth, her mother was told by a shaman to abandon her. That she would bring tragedy to anyone near her. Her mother didn't oblige, but once her mother died, she was shunned. Then, while all alone, Saiva meets Ivar (Gary Pillai) and a romance ensues.

(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)

When Saiva discovers Ivar and his clan massacred, she is able to save the lone survivor who is just a baby, Anja (Michelle Krusiec). Saiva gets her revenge with Anja in her arms. The film picks up when Anja is in her late teens/early 20s (never confirmed). Their existence is rough--food is difficult to come by, not much to do beyond survival and company is scarce, until Saiva finds Loki (Sean Bean). He is lying on the ice about to expire when Saiva takes him back to her and Anja's yurt. Saiva and Loki connect but Anja and Loki get together. The scenes with Loki and Anja together while Saiva is in the yurt with them are heart-breaking. When Anja announces to Saiva that she and Loki will leave to be together, start a family and be around others, you wonder if Saiva will unhinge.

Far North is SLOW moving, yet the theme and situation are fascinating. Two women alone navigating in a man's land and dealing with their yearnings for more. Yeoh is a master at communicating the deep dismay under her stiff facade. Because Far North moves so slowly, you aren't expecting the shocking ending. You get the feeling things won't go as planned--that Anja and Loki will abandon Saiva--but I wasn't expecting it to go so wrong. I haven't been able to erase it from my mind's eye.

Director: Asif Kapadia

Country: UK

Genre: Drama

Run time: 88 minutes

Scale: 3.5

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