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Lovers Of The Arctic Circle
Director: Julio Medem
104 minutes (15) widescreen 2.35:1 Tartan
review by Gary Couzens
Julio Medem is a Spanish (Basque) film director, whose second film, the intriguing
psychological thriller The Red Squirrel was one of the late Stanley Kubrick's
favourite recent films - he even bought his own 35mm print. Tierra was a striking
if rather obscure fable. The talent was there, and it really delivers with The Lovers
Of The Arctic Circle.
Ana and Otto first meet at the age of twelve. Her father is dead and his
parents are separated; for a while his father (Nancho Novo, the lead of The Red
Squirrel) and her mother live together and Ana and Otto are brought up almost as
brother and sister, but their love for each other goes deeper than that. Fate and
tragedy throw obstacles in their path until Ana (Najwa Nimri as an adult) and Otto's
(Fele Martinez) story is resolved in Finland, just inside the Arctic Circle.
Medem's film is constructed as series of parallels and doubles: some
characters significantly share the same name, and there's much play on the palindromic
nature of the lead character's names. The construction is intricate, using flashbacks
and flash-forwards, and narration from both Otto and Ana's point of view, in a way that
is more difficult to describe than it is to watch. Some attention needs to be paid, as
certain incidents and scenes don't fall into place until later on. Even so, though
Medem conjures up imagery that has an impact, even if the meaning isn't immediately
apparent. There are several twists of fate that would seem like outrageous coincidence
were they not conveyed with such conviction, and a Sliding Doors-like double
ending. This is not for the over-cynical viewer, I dare say, but it's surprising,
inventive and genuinely romantic and ultimately hard to resist.
The Lovers Of The Arctic Circle is in Spanish with some English
dialogue. The DVD is anamorphically enhanced, though on a 4:3 set this makes the
subtitles a little small, and they are sometimes hard to read against white backgrounds.
The sound is Dolby Surround, and the extras include the trailer, filmographies, a
stills gallery, an essay on the film and an interview with the director (both in text).
originally published online in VideoVista #19, October 2000
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