Published Mar 01, 2006This ostensibly French co-production has a little money in it from the National Film Board of Canada. Which is fitting, as it fits the Board's longstanding commitment to submerging personality in brute facts.
That subject is Norman Winther, a man who lives off the Yukon land and traps animals for a living. He's held up as an example of someone unwilling to live by the wasteful means of industrial society, and as a fleeting bulwark against the environmental encroachment of lumber companies. Unfortunately, he's also given no real personality, or even an opportunity to just sit down and elaborate on his views.
Sort of in the mode of the NFB classic Pour la suite du monde, the film is a faked documentary of someone going through the motions of a vanished way of life, but unlike the earlier film there's precious little artistry and absolutely no felicity. It's all business as he goes on his laborious way trapping and making stilted conversation with his Native Canadian girlfriend, plus there's an incredibly feeble subplot involving a new sled dog. And the business is so poorly written and directed that there's no tension or even interest. Winther comes off as less a defiant holdout than a loner with no personality, a fact that hardly lends lustre to the cause.
The arctic photography can be quite ravishing (in a low-budget sort of way), and the intentions are generally good, but it's clear that the participants are environmentalists first and filmmakers second. Alas, they should have brought in an outsider with some real film expertise, because this big goose egg does nothing to forward their cause with anyone other than the choir to which it preaches. (Chrystal)