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Centuries ago, in what would become the Canadian Arctic, Atuat is promised to the malevolent Oki, son of the leader of their tribe. But Atuat loves the good-natured Atanarjuat, who ultimately finds a way to marry her. Oki's sister, Puja also fancies Atanarjuat, and when she causes strife between him and his brother Amaqjuaq, Oki seizes the opportunity to wreak a terrible revenge on Atanarjuat. Written by
Shannon Patrick Sullivan <email@example.com>
The biggest surprise about the for Inuit-produced feature is that you do not need to be politically correct to like it. It is, besides a few excusable flaws, just a great film. It is extremely difficult to transfer stories from foreign cultures and oral traditions to the screen - the whole visual language of the media is loaded with subtle assumptions on how stories hold together and characters should act; and these assumptions mostly belong to "Western"-modern culture. I think this films great achievement is to avoid much of it. One example: It's not just due to the villainous character of some persons that they behave badly - the conflicts are not just conflicts between individuals. It's rather the entire community that is ill, due to spirit possession.
The film is told in a somewhat different visual language, and this is what makes it so convincing; this is also what makes it difficult to understand at times (particularly in the beginning), but this is the price to pay - it is rather surprising how comprehensible it gets later. The film as a whole is really exciting and touching. It's pace is slow (and I like slow-paced movies). It's solutions for particular scenes are striking - the appearance of the bad spirit in the end is eerie, and the effect is just done by the camera position. On the other hand, there is a sort a documentary immediacy to everything, as if the camera just happened to be in the right spot when the story unfolded (I liked the burping and spitting a lot).
There are, of course, points that don't work out well: The music is the usual One-World-Tribal-kitsch-mud, with didgeridoos and Tuvan throat-singing, as if every "primitive" culture was just the same (an idea originating from 18th century Europe and strangely enough professed by many "tribal" activists today). But, well, it's pretty discrete...
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