Brothers Aarne and Lasse Aatsinki are cowboys of the Arctic. Quiet but good natured, dare-devilish but humble, rugged but gentle, and exceptionally knowledgeable when it comes to their little slice of wilderness. These men are what John Wayne wanted to be. The brothers, along with their wives and children, live well north of the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, where they are the leaders of a collective of traditional reindeer herders who manage the last group of wild reindeer in all of Finland. Aatsinki follows the family for the span of one year, quietly observing their seasonal routines and the difficulties and joys of a life so closely tied to the land. Written by
Aatsinki: the Story of Arctic Cowboys is a visual marvel and a mind- blowing tribute to Finnish Lapland and self-sustainability in the harshest natural environment. The title is a little misleading as this documentary is not a story per se, it is an observation of the Aatsinki family and their reindeer herder business. The director, Jessica Oreck, seems to pose as a discreet and spy-ish witness of their Lappish way of life. The lack of narrative and explanation may seem strange to most viewers. They legitimately can think that the film's structure is dubious but I feel like this is an ideal directorial commitment that captures the essence of the Finnish mindset: the majesty of silence, the harmony of man with nature, the everyday rituals - especially the religious Finnish coffee-making process. Anyone who is slightly familiar with Finnish culture knows that Finns are not the biggest sharers and that there is no such thing as small-talk in Finland. Oreck takes us where winter's endless nights oppose the summer endless days. You will almost see it all - this includes a wonderful aurora borealis. But I said 'almost' because I do think there is a major thing lacking from this movie: the importance of Finnish sauna. I'm pretty sure that the Aatsinki family possesses a traditional sauna but not even once is it mentioned. This is probably due to the fact that this is an American movie. I haven't seen such a beautiful and masterly-handled cinematography since Heima. The sound editing in itself immerses us into a cottony winter wonderland that subtly muffles the wilderness sounds. Even with minimal dialog and no exchange with the observer, Oreck makes us enter the privileged and very intimate Aatsinki family circle and heightens our senses. I wouldn't recommend Aatsinki for anyone with vegetarian or vegan sensitivity as there are scenes of reindeer slaughter and various animal branding acts. This documentary is a beautiful ode to the wild that you ought to watch on a big screen in a comfortable theater to witness each magnificent detail.
1 reason to watch: one of the best cinematography 1 reason NOT to watch: if you are vegetarian/vegan, you may want to pass
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