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Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) (2001)

  Directed by: Zacharias Kunuk
Starring: Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq, Sylvia Ivalu, Lucy Tulugarjuk, Natar Ungalaaq
Links: Atanarjuat on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 6.00 (1 rating)
nofreelist.com Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) (2001) is also mentioned in pearly's review of A Time for Drunken Horses (2000) and pearly's review of The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003).

"Igloos, seal meat, and crunching snow" - a review by pearly

Atanarjuat is based on an Inuit legend. There are evil spirits in a small community, and Atanarjuat (Natar Ungalaaq), with his brother and their wives, is driven away. But he cannot escape the evil, and must confront it and try to rid the people of it.

This movie was created in an Inuit village, starring and crewed by the people, so in that way, it is 100% unique. The major criticism I have is that the story was too rambling, and went for far too long. Clocking in at just under three hours, it really could have achieved its purpose in about half that time. As a secondary criticism, the first half an hour or so is quite confusing - whilst you're trying to get a grip on who is who (made especially difficult by their similar and foreign-sounding names).

Based on a story of good versus evil, there's nothing new in the plot. But, for me, the storyline was kinda secondary to the amazing visuals, and the shots of the people doing everyday things. You could argue that it would have been better for this to have been a documentary, purely showcasing these things, and I don't totally disagree with that. But I think that given the story is so based in the people's culture, this is a very Inuit tale, and was probably just as good of a choice. Perhaps they could have made two films - one focusing on the legend, and another of the day-to-day life of an eskimo (they certainly had enough length of film to do so).

After time, what I will remember most about this film are the more tangible things. The sounds of the animal-skin boots in the snow, and the singing of the people. The spectacular shots of the men carving bricks out of ice, and forming the bricks into huge igloos. The women tenderising raw meat (whale? seal? I'm not sure), and separating the flesh from the skins (presumably to make clothes). The "sunglasses" fashioned from (I think) shell, and the fur clothing. And, of course, the surrounds.

The film was worth seeing for these things alone. But maybe the best way to see it is on video, so that you can stop for a break halfway through.

pearly gives this movie 6 out of 10.
Review created on Tue 27 Aug 2002

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