In 1896, three whalers are stranded in the Arctic North Canada and seek refuge with an Eskimo tribe. Gradually they gain control with the Eskimo village and introduce gambling, booze, theft... See full summary »
In 1896, three whalers are stranded in the Arctic North Canada and seek refuge with an Eskimo tribe. Gradually they gain control with the Eskimo village and introduce gambling, booze, theft and their special variation of sex. In the beginning, the Eskimos accept it but slowly the cultural tension starts growing. Written by
Frank Christensen <email@example.com>
The movie has a rather cheap feeling as it opens with a shot of a masted schooner bobbing its way through the ocean, and then a shot of a paper map of North America that gradually narrows so that you know that the story about to be told takes place on Baffin Island in Northern Canada. To be honest, that's the type of technical wizardry I might have expected of a movie made in the 1930's, but not the 1970's. And, in fairness, that's a misleading feeling. This isn't in any way a cheap movie. Apparently filmed on location, it includes some breathtaking shots of the local scene which make one powerfully aware of the barren starkness of the Arctic landscape, and an interesting look at Inuit (or "Eskimo" as the movie calls them, in the language of the 70's) culture.
The story revolves around three whalers from New England (played by Timothy Bottoms, Lou Gossett and Warren Oates) who are shipwrecked in the Arctic and taken in and taken care of by a local Inuit clan. All three have very different reactions to their experience. Daggett (Bottoms) is sympathetic and grateful to the Inuit and respectful to their culture, to the point at which he considers staying with them, Billy (Oates) is hostile to his benefactors and constantly trying to take advantage of them, and Portagee (Gossett) falls somewhere in between the two. I thought the first hour of this movie was quite fascinating, but in all honesty it became somewhat repetitive in the second hour and I found myself losing focus on it. It was rather obvious almost from the start how this was going to end up, and so there was no real suspense involved to keep me focused. Having said that, the most powerful scene in the movie is probably found in that second half, in which the three castaways find a way to make alcohol out of local berries, and share it with the Inuit, which mirrors one of the tragedies that occurred throughout North America as native culture was almost wiped out. The second half also contains the best line, coming from Sarkak (Simonie Kopapik), the clan leader, who realizes that having the three with them isn't good and puts it this way: "They sleep with our women and eat our food. What else are they good for?" The conclusion of the movie is no surprise to anyone, although I did feel sympathy that Daggett (who was sympathetic to the clan) shared the fate of his fellow castaways.
The performances from Bottoms, Gossett and Oates were good, but the stars of the movie were really the Inuit themselves. I can't help thinking, though, that this may be one of the rare occasions when a movie might have been better had it been made for TV. With time cut out to make way for commercials, some of the repetitiveness of the second half might have been avoided. It's an interesting movie, but just didn't keep me glued to what was happening. Overall, it's a mediocre effort - not bad, but not great, either. 4/10
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