Far North Review

Other than some spectacular scenery shot on the Arctic location of Svalbard, Asif Kapadia’s Far North doesn’t really have much else going for it. The film is adapted from a short story only five pages long, but even after working on the script and production for four and a half years, the film still remains devoid of anything of interest or credibility in either storyline or characterisation.

In some unspecified far northern Arctic region in some unknown time period, Saiva (Michelle Yeoh) and another young woman Anja (Michele Krusiec) eke out a miserable existence on the ice, banished from the wider Inuit community on account of a Shaman declaring Saiva cursed and destined to bring misfortune to anyone close to her (the viewer could well be included in this curse). Their life is even more difficult and isolated as they need to avoid the threat of the white man who has been mercilessly wiping out their people in their greed for the resources of the land. So when an unknown man turns up, half-dead on the frozen tundra, Saiva has to think twice before taking him in and helping him recover.

Any promise that the film might have held – and really, there’s very little to recommend in the disjointed scenes and lack of contextual setting or background characterisation – disappears from this point on, the story amounting to little more than a rivalry springing up between the two women for the attentions of Loki (Sean Bean). That rivalry is resolved in the most outlandish manner imaginable with a ludicrous ending that is likely to leave the viewer bewildered and gasping with incredulity.

The Disc: The film is presented at its 2.35:1 aspect ratio, anamorphically enhanced. Although on a dual-layer disc, there is a suspicion that the picture quality has been somewhat compromised by the vast amount of extra features included. The image is rather soft and lacks the icy clarity and sheen that the film would seem to require, the colouration sometimes dull and exhibiting blue-edge bleed. Areas of dancing grain and minor instability can also be seen at points, but the image at least remains relatively clear, even in darker interior shots. The audio tracks are fine, but the surround track doesn’t particularly stand out.

The extra features, particularly the fine video-diary style Making Of, prove to be of far more interest than the film itself, although there is some repetition of the Interview sections here (and presumably the Commentary also, although I didn't listen to it to verify). The additional footage of the Svalbard locations here and in the production manager's search for polar bears make these features well worth the effort and have you wishing the director had made a documentary about the place instead. The DVD-ROM material includes the original short story that inspired the film, a music file of the film's theme and a nicely illustrated Press Book.

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