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

Monk with a Camera
Film Review: Monk With a Camera: The Life and Journey of Nicholas Vreeland

Enthralling and uplifting documentary about a man of the world turned monk, but one who effects real, inspiring change. More »

The Circle
Film Review: The Circle

Very strong, historically intriguing and important gay document is marred by intrusive real-life interview footage, which seriously breaks up the dramatic momentum. More »

The King and the Mockingbird
Film Review: The King and the Mockingbird

A tyrant pursues a shepherdess across a magical landscape in an animated masterpiece by Paul Grimault. More »

Reach Me
Film Review: Reach Me

Self-help book draws an array of lost and lonely people together in a misguided message drama from writer-director John Herzfeld. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Hunger Games - Mockingjay Pt 1
Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Darker, less action-packed first half of the final installment of the popular franchise moves from arenas to rubble aplenty as Jennifer Lawrence’s super-heroine is called upon to serve her beleaguered and much-destroyed nation as propaganda instrument and leader. Fans of the books and previous two films get a less flashy palette here, but the engaging characters and strong story return to stir interest for the scheduled November 2015 finale. More »

Foxcatcher review
Film Review: Foxcatcher

Character is destiny in this masterfully controlled true-crime sports drama that will likely catapult Steve Carell into the Oscar race. 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