In a near-empty Northfork orphanage, Father Harlan gently tends to Irwin, an eight-year-old who lies between a dream state and death. As orphanage caretaker Harlan reads aloud about Northfork's years-ago forced evacuation to make way for a hydro-electric dam, Irwin's imagination takes flight. While a team of six men evacuate the last remaining citizens of the town, Irwin, too, invents a cast of characters to prepare himself for his own evacuation. (the above states the caretaker - who is actually the priest - is reading about a years-ago evacuation. In the movie, the evacuation is taking place as the boy lays dying!)Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Mr Stalling says that he is waiting for a sign from God, when Walter O'Brien visits him at the ark. Walter imparts a tale about when the water has risen, men will come by in a boat to take him and the two Mrs Stallings's to safety. They will not go, because they are waiting for a sign and they will drown. And God will say, I sent you a boat, what more did you want? This story also appears in the The West Wing season one episode "Take This Sabbath Day" and is told by the Karl Malden character, Father Thomas Cavanaugh. See more »
When the six committee members get out of their three cars at the dam, we hear eight doors slam. See more »
[reading a letter]
To the loving O'Brien family. It has been brought to our attention that the remains of a Mrs. Patricia O'Brien have yet to be excavated. Please make arrangements immediately.
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Like the Polish Brothers' previous films (`Twin Falls Idaho' and `Jackpot'), `Northfork' divides audiences even as it baffles and bewilders them. Many will surely find this film to be slow moving, arty, pretentious and boring, while others will be intrigued by its originality and visionary quality. Either way you slice it, however, `Northfork' is an acquired taste.
It's 1955 and Northfork, a small town on the plains of Montana, is about to be wiped off the face of the earth by a gigantic flood. Only this time the destruction won't be the result of the angry hand of Providence but rather of a dam building project developed and conceived by the government in the name of `progress.' Out of this simple premise, Mark and Michael Polish have crafted an elegy to the past, a tone poem that reflects the deep sadness that comes with change, abandonment and loss. To achieve their effect, the writers have incorporated large doses of Magic Realism (with heavy religious and Biblical overtones) into their narrative. While we observe the harsh realities of people being driven from their homesteads, we are also introduced to a quartet of angels who are searching for one of their number who went missing a number of years earlier. Legend has it that the town of Northfork was originally looked out for by a group of guardian angels and it is from this rather twisted and bent angle that the Polish Brothers have chosen to approach their subject.
`Northfork' is far more about mood, imagery and tone than it is about plot and character development. In fact, the characters themselves the angels, a caring priest, a dying boy, and a father and son whose job it is to make sure no people are left behind when the land is inundated are as subdued in tone as the film is as a whole. None of the characters ever speaks above a whisper and each comes across as moody, introspective and stolid. It is in the visuals and in the unhurried, subtle pacing of the narrative that the film achieves its power. The dry barren plains, the weather beaten houses, the violated cemeteries, and the isolated figures of men and buildings placed in stark relief against an imposing horizon these are the images that seep inexorably into the viewer's subconscious and which make the film a stunning study in melancholy. Let it be noted, however, that there is also a modicum of hope and optimism in the story to help mitigate the sadness.
A number of big name stars have leant their talents to the project, including Nick Nolte, James Woods and Daryl Hannah. Woods, with his straight-faced, deadpan delivery, provides some much needed touches of black humor throughout the otherwise deadly serious work.
`Northfork' definitely requires that you be in a certain mood to appreciate and enjoy it. Hopefully, you'll hit it at just the right moment.
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