Sunday, January 04, 2009

FAR NORTH - like all the best fairy-tales, bestial and grimm

FAR NORTH is best viewed as grim(m) fairy tale and like all the best fairy tales it's full of sexual tension and menace and speaks to how narcissistic and selfish lovers can be.

In a un-named tundra in an ambiguous time, Saiva and Anja eke out a living. Saiva is mother and father to Anja, and loves her with an intensity that borders on the psychosexual. A near-dead man wanders into their path and Saiva, against her better instincts, takes him in. Immediately, he alters the balance of power: it is Loki that combs Anja's hair and hunts the reindeer; Loki who makes Anja laugh. Saiva suppresses her discomfort at first, tactfully leaving the two lovers alone, until they voice their desire to leave.

Michelle Yeoh is desperately moving as Saiva, putting so much emotion into a tortured glance that it's almost unbearable. Sean Bean is also convincing and nuanced as Loki - humble and grateful at the start; increasingly dominant and literally cocksure; finally brutally selfish. Michelle Krusiec is less convincing as Anja, but this isn't too damaging to a film that uses her merely as a possession to be fought over by Saiva and Loki. The movie has an austere, strange feel - deliberately cultivated with the ambiguity of the setting, the stunning spare ice-scapes, the minimal dialogue and the solemn iconography. I found it compelling....for the most part.


The only problem I have with this film is the ending. Of course, Saiva was going to kill Anja and/or Loki. The foreshadowing was as subtle as a sledgehammer - she spent the entire movie sharpening her knife and skinning animals. The surprise was that she made Loki fuck her and said that she loved him. On my reading of the previous eighty minutes, she didn't love Loki but Anja. Killing Anja to keep her from leaving made sense. All that followed was pure nonsense.

FAR NORTH played Venice and London 2007 and was released in London and Russia last year.

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