Saturday, 1 September 2007
Venice: Far North
Asif Kapadia’s debut feature, The Warrior, was a visually stunning, elegantly told tale set against the harsh, brutal desert of India. His third feature, Far North, which screened in Venice in an out-of-competition slot, takes place against another timeless landscape, the Arctic tundra. Here, off the map, lives Saiva (Michelle Yeoh) and her adopted daughter Anja (Michelle Krusiec). Theirs is a cold, lonely, desolate existence, paddling the ice flows, scavenging for food – dog, reindeer, seagull – hiding from man, constantly moving, the sole survivors of an indigenous tribe wiped out in a shocking massacre. Then, one day, a figure appears on the ice sheet, a man, Loki (Sean Bean), and against her better judgment Saiva rescues him, bringing home to their tent where the two women compete for his attentions, with Loki eventually pairing off with Anja. Based on a short story by Sara Maitland that Kubrick was a fan of (he asked Maitland to write AI on the strength of it), Far North has the feeling of a classic folk tale, a strong, simple human story economically told with minimal dialogue and breathtaking cinematography by Kapadia’s usual DP Roman Osin (all blues, greys and whites). The film casts an inexorable spell and is always moving, right up until the shocking and, actually, rather baffling finale. It’s the kind of denouement one can’t talk without spoiling the film but, until then, Kapadia doesn’t put a foot wrong.