Bulgaria, Germany, France, 2018, 91 minutes, Colour.
Directed by Milko Lazarov.
This is an ethnographical film, portraying the life of Eskimos in the Arctic Circle as well as focusing on the changes in temperature, availability of animals for hunting, mysterious deaths of animals, and the younger generation moving into the city and to different kinds of work.
As with this kind of film, the cinematography is beautiful and vibrant, wide screen. It opens with scenes of the tundra, the lone man with his dog and sled traversing the screen. The film focuses on the man, older, living alone with his wife who is ill. There is a great deal of detail for those who like this kind of documentary, close-up of the couple, their communication, their being busy all the time with tasks in the home as well as preparation for the hunt, the wife making a hat from the skin of a dead furry animal, attempts at fishing in ice holes…
The son has gone to the city but does pay them a visit with news of other relatives.
The couple endure a heavy storm, putting great strain on the wife who recounts a dream she has about meeting a polar bear, turning into a young man, his inviting her to his home, it being a vast hole, very deep, with all the stars of the heavens, where she loses her memory and her consciousness. It is clearly a premonition of death.
When his wife dies, the older man decides to visit his daughter with whom the parents have quarrelled, Aga. He travels along way, spring coming on and, instead of snow and mountainous rocks, there are hills with trees, a road with a truck driver and a logging load, his finding the diamond mine where his daughter works, an extraordinary excavation, truck tracks on the sides of the mountain. He eventually sees his daughter. She weeps. And the camera with a helicopter crane sequence lifts out of the vast mountain up into the air, over the works, over the town, over the modern world.
The film makes the point that the Eskimos lived an ancient way for centuries but this is now coming to an end with the younger generation moving out and into the cities as well as the effects of climate change.
Bulgaria, 2018, 95 minutes, Colour.
Mikhail Aprosimov, Feodosius Ivanova, Sergei Egorov.
Directed by Milko Lazarov.
Back in 1922, veteran documentary filmmaker, Robert Flaherty a pioneer in this kind of documentary, went to the Arctic and made the classic, Nanook of the North. This documentary, almost 100 years later, pays tribute to the classic by naming its central character, Nanook.
This time the location is in Arctic Russia, the snowclad open steppes, the high rock outcrops, some sparse vegetation. This is a world away from most audiences.
The special appeal of this documentary will be to those who like those studies which might be described as anthropological. The filmmakers go into what is a remote area for most of us, present us with extraordinary visuals, the range of seasons and their effect, the survival activities for food and shelter, the tent living quarters and the interiors, the boring of holes in the ice for fishing, the sightings of the reindeer. Again, audiences will relish the time spent in the surroundings but they will also be warming to the two central characters, now elderly, their children having gone to the cities or to industries beyond the steppes.
Nanook is ageing, a bulky man, with his sled and faithful hound, travelling the snow and ice, fishing, often without success, looking for the reindeer. His wife, Sedna, cooks, sews, mends, reminisces with her husband about the old days, about their children, relatives. They love each other, good company for each other. At one moment, we Sedna preparing a salve and revealing an unhealthy growth on her body which will have dire consequences.
In the latter part of the film, Nanook goes to visit his daughter who works in a diamond mine kilometres away. He gets a lift with a very chubby, genially heavy, log driver, quite a long drive by day and night, encountering the Russian guards with their demands for documents, but who also give advice about the weather and conditions on the strength and weaknesses of the ice.
By the end, we have left the steps behind and see the vastness of the mine, the huge cavity in the earth, industrial smoke, the huge vehicles, the overview of the town surrounding the mine – and the realisation that the isolated past is receding more and more into the past and here is an image of the future.
1. An anthropological documentary? Audience response?
2. The landscapes, snow and ice, the vastness, flat steppes, rock outcrops, some vegetation? Digging the holes for fishing? The sight of the reindeer?
3. Nanook, his age, with his sled and dog, the hole for fishing, not finding fish for many days? His wife, her age, the memories of her children and the departure to the cities? Their friendship, love, comfort?
4. Nanook’s wife, in the tent, the tasks at home, the cooking, mending? Her growth and the salving it? The pathos of her death? Her love her husband, the conversations and memories?
5. Nanook moving, going to see his daughter, the huge truck and the logging, the large driver, the music, chatting, day and night, the Russian guards, the documents, the warning about the ice?
6. Life on the steppes and its being remote, from the past? The truck, on the road, the music? Into the modern world?
7. The incident with the killing of the reindeer, the mechanism to load it on the back of the truck?
8. Nanook and his walking to the mine? His daughter, hard hat, at work, dropping the hat, seeing her father, intimations of grief? Tears? The reunion of father and daughter?
9. The final visuals of the vast hole in the ground for the mine, the landscapes on the side of the mountain, the vehicles? The machines?
10. The final vistas from the air, the homes, the streets, the vehicles – and Nanook now in the 21st century?