by Natasha Theobald
By many accounts, this movie is art. Art, to me, should be accessible, or, at the very least, interesting. This movie wasn't either of those things. There were some amazing things happening visually, but they were buried in a morass of stilted dialogue and monotonous acting. The drama seems random and somewhat insincere. And, there are several drawn out sequences with music by k.d. lang, who also appears, over pictures of sweeping Alaskan vistas. These are like music videos by way of National Geographic. Alaska means snow -- and a lot of it. It also means people in ugly, fur-lined coats.Kotzebue, the Eskimo woman played by lang, is drawn to the local library to find information about her heritage. She was abandoned as an infant and wants to know more about the circumstances of her birth. Kotzebue gets into trouble for not knowing how to treat the library books. The German librarian, Roswitha, acridly played by Rosel Zech, threatens that if books are thrown again, the police will be called. "The handcuffs will say click and the books will be safe again from you and your kind." No, I wasn't kidding about the bad dialogue.
"I had no patience for this movie."
Since there is nothing to do where they live but play Bingo and howl with the wolves, Kotzebue tries to make amends and stimulate romance by bringing the woman an enormous fish. She stumbles into Roswitha's bedroom and finds it lined with shelves upon shelves of red berries, which the woman collects. Kotzebue eats some berries that have been there a decade too long, gets drunk, and falls asleep in the woman's bed.
Through the course of their friendship, we learn that the librarian has unfinished business in Germany, unanswered questions and unresolved feelings. There are a couple of good scenes when they get to Germany, but, by then, I was too far gone.
The scenes that are not white with snow are bathed in colored light. Everything is tinted blue or green or red. Red was the color of the berries in the bedroom, so I am thinking the color had something to do with lust or longing or innocence lost. White would be purity or simplicity? Green, I think, was lack of knowledge. Frankly, I didn't care. The constant colored lights in darkness just gave me a headache.
I hate it when people intimate that not liking a movie like this is due to a lack of understanding or a certain sensibility. It's hard to care about the symbolism when you are not given any reason to care about the story or the characters or the events of the narrative or the setting...or anything else. This movie was frustrating, but not in the good, challenging way. It was frustrating in the obtuse, annoying way.Beware.
(I also apologize to my sister for every film I told her she just didn't understand. I know you were scarred for life by that one with Scott Baio and from seeing the Karate Kid kiss the guy. Sorry.)
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6160&reviewer=317
originally posted: 10/10/02 13:56:07