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Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2010)

Director: Werner Herzog and Dmitry Vasyukov Genre: Documentary With "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" Werner Herzog ...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Never Cry Wolf (1983)

Director: Carroll Ballard
Cast: Charles Martin Smith

Plot: Biologist Tyler (Smith) has his task cut out—his organization has him sent to the Arctic wilderness for researching the reason of decline in Caribou’s population. Most likely, Canis Lupus (wolf) is the culprit.    

Never Cry Wolf
Never Cry Wolf is pure bliss. Set in the majestic Arctic, it literally gives you the feel of walking in the air. Essence of uncorrupted nature has been captured onscreen like never before. There are hardly any artificial sounds used in the film and background score used is very minimal. The majestic silence of Arctic is broken only by the chirping of crickets and howling of either wind or Canis Lupus (Arkmanon in Inuit).

When Tyler first lands in Arctic, the sheer vastness scares him a bit. Loneliness is in abundance. But once Tyler starts gelling with the nature, the solitude turns to peace and he doesn’t want anyone or anything to shake up his serenity.   

There are few other interesting characters in the movie:
  • The curious white wolf George who lets Tyler into his territory. The initial encounters of the two are very engaging and set the right tone for entire film.  
  •  An aged Inuit Ootek who teaches Tyler the ways of the wild and how to imbibe its soul within oneself (something which is later shown in more detail in 2003 film "Snow Walker").
  • Rosie and Mike: both are consumed by greed and sell out the nature. Though Mike’s actions are somewhat justifiable as he has responsibilities.  
The screenplay compliments the plot so well. The opening shot with an excited Tyler’s narrative of his journeying toward his childhood dream, and then, the sudden change in tone after the magnitude of situation sinks into him as he ponders over what he’s is actually  attempting—simply top notch. Apart from Tyler’s encounter with the wolf there are some other scenes that give you a good laugh, especially the ones involving Arctic’s omnipresent rodents. No real spoilers ahead but the expressions on Tyler and Mice in a lunch scene are unbeatable!  

Never Cry Wolf was one of the first Touchstone pictures and played a huge part in establishing the successful production house we see today. Beautifully narrated, breathtaking, attracting and holding interest as if by a spell; this film is based on Farley Mowat's autobiographical, albeit controversial, best-selling book about his life among Arctic wolves.

The film concludes with an old Inuit song:

"I think over again my small adventures, my fears.
Those small ones that seemed so big.
For all the vital things I had to get and to reach.
And yet there is only one great thing, the only thing:
To live to see the great day that dawns,
and the light that fills the world."


Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Way Back (2010)

Director: Peter Weir
Genre: Adventure
Cast: Jim Sturgess Ed Harris, Colin Farrel, Saoirse Ronan

The Way BackPlot: Story of a few prisoners’ 4000 mile long arduous escape journey from a Siberian Gulag—a forced labor camp during WWII.

‘The Way Back’ is an epic in respect of its content. Stalin/Russia and Hitler/Nazi are at war, and World War II is the backdrop, any foreigner in Siberia is suspected as a spy; be it Polish, Latvian or American, and is sent to the dreaded Gulag. Prisoners are put through tough labor and, like most forced WWII camps, are underfed. The jail is considered as unbreakable not because of its sentries or barbed wire but because there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Any escapee will either get lost in the extreme and wild Siberian vastness or freeze to death in sub-zero temperatures.

Yet, some escapees attempt this impossible—a freedom-walk from Siberia to India. Conditions for survival are adverse and nature is at its utmost fury. In their mammoth journey escapees chart the depths of snow-covered Cedar forest, measure the length of magnificent Lake Baikal, survive the hunger/thirst of Mongolian desert and ultimately face the grand Himalayas. All through this, they brave the bone chilling tempests of Siberia, sandstorms of Gobi desert, unending nothingness of Tibetan plateaus, and above all, leaving behind their loved ones. Down and out and at the limit of physical exhaustion, their will power and burning desire to reach someone keeps them going. Eventually, the epic journey concludes in Sikkim, India.

The film beautifully portrays some very tender sentiments. Mr. Smith (Harris) comes back from almost dead because of his son. The group’s natural leader Janusz (Sturgess) must wait till Poland’s freedom in 1989 to reunite with his estranged wife who actually gave him away under severe torture. Janusz wants to let her know she is forgiven and deserves peace. With the help of some moving, black&white collages, he is shown to have waited 50 years to meet his wife.
It is a visually striking piece of film-making and vastness of plot can’t be covered in a mere 2 hours, which is primarily the reason why some scenes are a bit hurried and beautiful sequences end prematurely when you are craving for more in-depth detailing. Nonetheless this film is a must watch for its sheer multifariousness. When it comes to nature it doesn’t get more diverse and exotic than this movie.  

The film is directed well. An extra hour or so would have given screenplay, along with direction, ample breathing space. Acting is only a second fiddle here, still some sequences like Valka (Farrell) not quitting on mother Russia and risking imprisonment, death scenes of the characters, especially Irena, do touch you. Makeup is simply unbelievable, no surprises it was nominated for Academy in the category.      

Set in 1939 ‘The Way Back’ is based on the novel ‘The Long Walk’ which has been claimed as an account of true events by some world war survivors and veterans. Director, though, maintains it is only a story.    

Any nature lovers or hard core trekkers must do themselves a favor and watch it immediately!

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