Wednesday, 20 February 2008

GFF- Far North - by Sandra Dupuy

Director: Asif Kapadia
Asif Kapadia and Tim Miller, from a short story by Sarah Maitland
Running time: 89 min
Certificate: 15
18th and 19th of February, GFT

With a fluid tracking shot over desolate Arctic landscapes where frozen seas neighbour inaccessible glaciers, you’re immediately immersed in the chilling depths of Asif Kapadia’s second film. Like his BAFTA winning feature The Warrior (2001), Far North’s epic and contemplative feel as well as its barren plot admirably serve the intricate character study at work.

The icy tundra is the ideal casket for a village witch to cast a spell on young and innocent Saiva (Michelle Yeoh). Far North’s tale of malevolence opens with Yeoh’s haunting face and bewitching voice reminiscing about past events slowly brought to the surface via brutal flashbacks. The present finds her sharing a yurt in the middle of nowhere with younger Anja (Michelle Krusiek). Their seemingly peaceful pace is turned upside down when Saiva finds a man (Sean Bean) at death’s door on the nearby ice floe.

Kapadia’s camera slowly lingers on the characters’ windswept faces and the disquieting landscapes, involuntary witnesses of past wrongs and insanity in progress. Krusiek’s subtle performance as Saiva’s fresh and na├»ve companion efficiently contrasts with Yeoh’s, as fascinating as ever. The Hong-Kong legend empowers her grieving character with enough dignity and mystery to carry the film through to its creepy ending. Even Sean Bean who plays Loki, a wounded 21st century Beowulf, gets away with minimal acting thanks to his abundant scars and pained grimaces.

Fire smoulders under the ice, as it did in Zacharias Kunuk’s Atanarjuat (2001), though the shamanism dimension isn’t as prevalent. Yeoh’s take on the avenging angel (her character presents similarities with Asami from Takashi Miike’s 1999 Audition) as well as Kapadia’s stunning adaptation will definitely hoist Far North into the pantheon of taut thrillers behind closed doors.

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