Far North is an unlikely horror drama set in the Arctic Circle.
Bollywood is gradually limping back to normal after the producer-multiplex strike, but it won’t be till next weekend that big blockbusters will be released. In the meantime, British-Indian filmmaker Asif Kapadia’s 2007 film, Far North, has made its way back into the theatres this week, after a short release last year. I recommend you watch this one — it has the makings of an unlikely horror drama.
Director Kapadia seems preoccupied with landscapes and wildlife in his films. In the Irrfan Khan starrer The Warrior (which won him a BAFTA), Kapadia chose barren deserts and mountains to do the talking. In Far North, it is the exquisite eeriness of the Arctic Circle that takes centrestage.
Two women, played by Michelle Yeoh and Michelle Krusiec, reside in the white expanses above the Arctic Circle. The younger of the two — Krusiec, we learn later, is something of an adopted daughter to the reclusive Yeoh. But for the occasional contact with a few residents of the Arctic or soldiers camping in the area, the two women spend their days fishing and hunting and cooking reindeer meat.
These daily chores are pushed to the background and extreme emotions rush to the surface when an injured soldier, played by Sean Bean, takes refuge in their tent for a few weeks. The tough and hardy Yeoh, of a silent, autocratic nature, feels the oft-straying Krusiec slipping away from her, and to a man who is virtually a stranger. The first half of the film moves along unhurriedly, patiently panning the vastly overwhelming landscape, and then quite suddenly it springs to its heady, horrifying climax.
This unexpected potboiler stands out for a couple of reasons. One, for being a rather classy drama — I liked it for its carefully measured, underplayed horror. Two, the subtle play between human presence and looming landscape, with very few words spoken, makes the film almost poetic. Surprisingly, the lack of dialogue, ambient sound and background score works perfectly.
No, it isn’t typical arthouse cinema — in fact, it’s an interesting mix of commercial and art. The climax might have fit better in a popular action flick, but here it is treated with artful, precise direction. The actors have given measured performances in keeping with the spirit of the film. The movie stumbles once — the initial scenes require patience. But the rest of the film is smoothly chilling.
Film: Far North
Director: Asif Kapadia
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Michelle Krusiec, Sean Bean