Published Feb 19, 2009Ce Qu'il Faut Pour Vivre (The Necessities of Life) is a beautiful, bittersweet story of an Inuit hunter trying to make it in the strange southern world of '50s Quebec. Natar Ungalaaq (the star of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner) plays Tivii, a hunter who is forced to descend from his home to a sanatorium when he is diagnosed with tuberculosis.
Inspired by actual tuberculosis epidemics among Canada's Inuit population in the '40s and '50s, The Necessities of Life is a beautiful fish-out-of-water drama about a man torn from his home and everything he knows and placed into a strange and foreign world (Quebec City, to be precise). The profound culture shock is juxtaposed against some equally intense moments of human connection. Indeed, the film is all about creating a balance of opposites — from the stark, empty vistas of his far northern home to the cluttered views of Quebec City's tree- and building-filled streets.
In spite of the language barrier between him and everyone in the hospital, Tivii understands that he'll probably be there for a long time and despair sets in, only to be slowly lifted through gentle interactions with fellow patients and caring nurses. An orphaned Inuit boy appears on the scene to act as Tivii's translator and the older man takes him under his wing, teaching him about the customs, myths and traditions of his people, most of which he's long forgotten.
The mid-20th century period details are well handled by Benoit Pilon, who's directed mostly docs up to this point. Obviously his eye for realism and detail is well suited to telling this subtle and emotionally potent story.
The film's been nominated for eight Genies, the Oscar for best foreign language film and a slew of other awards. It's all just another sign that Canada's far north is developing a deeply powerful cinematic voice, one that may in time rival Quebec's as Canada's most prominent "national cinema." (Seville)