Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys

Jessica Oreck's stand-back-and-observe approach to this study of reindeer herders will leave most viewers dissatisfied.

Jan 22, 2014

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1392978-Aatsinki_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

.A look at Arctic reindeer herding whose Direct Cinema austerity makes it ill-suited for general audiences, Jessica Oreck's Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys offers occasional moments of quiet beauty but will try the patience of even open-minded viewers.

Resembling 2009's Sweetgrass but never achieving that film's man/nature poetry, the film plunks us without so much as a scene-setting opening title into Lapland, Finland, where a small group of men are steering herds of reindeer using helicopters, ATVs and walkie-talkies.

None of the men are introduced, but in time we realize two similar faces—one clean-shaven, one bearing a short-trimmed goatee—are getting the lion's share of screen time. Only in the end credits, which thank Aarne and Lasse Aatsinki, do we surmise they are brothers; festival notes relayed that they lead a local herders' collective, but neither has a personality that comes across onscreen or is seen doing anything to suggest his position in this community.

The film's follow-the-seasons structure is apparent—warm-weather scenes precede snowy ones, which lead to Christmas celebrations. But Oreck's refusal to ask her subjects questions or offer any narration leaves many other things annoyingly inexplicable. Why do the men cut multiple notches in their animals' ears, then slash their bodies seemingly at random? If it's to identify one man's reindeer from another's, why not do it uniformly, instead of keeping a pencil-and-paper log of each individual in the herd? Or, easier for man and gentler to beast, why not rely on the plastic tags the herders are already using?

A more vexing question: How many times will we watch as a cowboy whittles up some kindling and hangs his kettle above a campfire?

Surely, the film has some anthropological value. And even non-academics will find pleasure in some of the things it witnesses: Though Oreck's digital camera isn't equal to this grandeur, shots of massive herds of reindeer moving swiftly through the woods or of the pale pinks and blues of an iced-over winter morning offer some payoff for viewers who bear with the film.

-The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys

Jessica Oreck's stand-back-and-observe approach to this study of reindeer herders will leave most viewers dissatisfied.

Jan 22, 2014

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1392978-Aatsinki_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

.A look at Arctic reindeer herding whose Direct Cinema austerity makes it ill-suited for general audiences, Jessica Oreck's Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys offers occasional moments of quiet beauty but will try the patience of even open-minded viewers.

Resembling 2009's Sweetgrass but never achieving that film's man/nature poetry, the film plunks us without so much as a scene-setting opening title into Lapland, Finland, where a small group of men are steering herds of reindeer using helicopters, ATVs and walkie-talkies.

None of the men are introduced, but in time we realize two similar faces—one clean-shaven, one bearing a short-trimmed goatee—are getting the lion's share of screen time. Only in the end credits, which thank Aarne and Lasse Aatsinki, do we surmise they are brothers; festival notes relayed that they lead a local herders' collective, but neither has a personality that comes across onscreen or is seen doing anything to suggest his position in this community.

The film's follow-the-seasons structure is apparent—warm-weather scenes precede snowy ones, which lead to Christmas celebrations. But Oreck's refusal to ask her subjects questions or offer any narration leaves many other things annoyingly inexplicable. Why do the men cut multiple notches in their animals' ears, then slash their bodies seemingly at random? If it's to identify one man's reindeer from another's, why not do it uniformly, instead of keeping a pencil-and-paper log of each individual in the herd? Or, easier for man and gentler to beast, why not rely on the plastic tags the herders are already using?

A more vexing question: How many times will we watch as a cowboy whittles up some kindling and hangs his kettle above a campfire?

Surely, the film has some anthropological value. And even non-academics will find pleasure in some of the things it witnesses: Though Oreck's digital camera isn't equal to this grandeur, shots of massive herds of reindeer moving swiftly through the woods or of the pale pinks and blues of an iced-over winter morning offer some payoff for viewers who bear with the film.

-The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

The Devils Violinist
Film Review: The Devil's Violinist

The latest classical-music legend to have his life trashed–again—by a cheaply sensationalistic movie, this famed fiddler deserved way better. More »

Backstreet Boys
Film Review: Backstreet Boys: Show 'Em What You're Made Of

The ’90s boy band dusts itself off for a self-congratulatory, and not especially revelatory, career retrospective on the occasion of their 20th anniversary tour. More »

Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts 2015
Film Review: The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2015: Documentary

The long shadow and in-your-face reality of mortality shadows nearly all the entries in this year’s powerful, draining Oscar-nominated documentary short films program. More »

Film Review: The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2015: Live- Action

This year’s program of Oscar-nominated live-action short films is longer on character and short on cute. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Project Almanac
Film Review: Project Almanac

Saying this underbaked Chronicle knockoff is meant for teenagers is an insult to the intelligence of teenagers everywhere. More »

The Wedding Ringer
Film Review: The Wedding Ringer

Intermittently amusing bro-comedy trifle that confirms Kevin Hart's talent, though not his taste in material. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here