Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Journals of Knud Rasmussen

Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner was a hit with Anne and the critics and The Journals of Knud Rasmussen is made by the same team so I went to see what all the fuss is about. Knud Rasmussen was born and grow up in Greenland in 1879 with a Danish missionary father and an Inuit mother. Later in 1910 he and his friend Peter Freuchen established the Thule Trading Station which became the base for seven Arctic expeditions in Greenland and Canada. While Knud, Peter and their friend Therkel Mathiassen appear in this film (set in 1922 during the 5th expedition), it isn't really about them. The story is told from the Inuit side, in Inuit, subtitled in English (though with significant gaps!). The style of story telling in the first half of the film is non-linear and disorientating but settles down to something more conventional in the second half.

The great shaman, Avva, and his family are living on the land some distance from Iglulik, his home community when the 3 explorers come upon them. Rasmussen hears and records Avva’s life story and that of his wife Orulu before heading west. The other two travel with Avva and his family as they set off back north to Iglulik. It is a hard journey and the family arrive hungry and weak and we realise why Avva had been reluctant to return to Iglulik. The community has converted to Christianity, something as alien to Inuit as the ideas of Shamanism is to us.

While I found the first half confusing, the film got better as it went along and the ending was excellent. It might be better to get this film on DVD and watch it twice to make more sense of the earlier stuff.

Ian's rating: 2.5/5

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