|Lovers of the Arctic Circle
An exquisitely crafted meditation on love and destiny,
LOVERS OF THE ARCTIC CIRCLE/LOS AMANTES DEL CIRCULO POLAR,
directed by Julio Medem, traces the relationship between Otto and Ana
from their chance meeting as children to adulthood. Along the way, through
a series of coincidences and fatalistic twists, their stories intertwine.
Medem has taken an unusual, almost novelistic approach to filmmaking,
alternating sections of the film as told from the point of view of one of
the protagonists. Thus the audience sometimes sees the same events
from different perspectives. Yet Medem does not lose sight of the role
of some omnipotent force -- call it Fate, God, the Author or, well, even
the Director. There are little similarities like the palindromic names of
the principals to more overt metaphors (i.e., the use of both airplanes
and circular imagery throughout). It is a charming and fascinating exercise
in movie-making and one which I found to be entrancing. I am cognizant
that some of my colleagues do not share my delight in this film, carping
on the structure but that is exactly what I found so appealing. Perhaps
it is because I have a more fatalistic approach to living or because
Romanticism was a particular specialty of mine in college. Whatever
the case, the story of Otto and Ana struck a chord in me.
Otto first meets Ana as she is running through the woods near
their school and he is chasing a soccer ball. She trips and falls and
when she looks back at him -- their eyes lock and one sense immediately
their attraction. Otto is merely stunned by her; Ana believes that her
recently deceased father has been reincarnated in Otto. The fact that
they are both eight years old makes it all the more poignant.
Because of paper airplanes Otto makes with a question about
love on each, their single parents (his father and her mother) meet and
strike a romance. In one of the "coincidences" of the story, these two
become related by marriage. As her feelings for Otto grow, Ana comes
to realize he is not her father's reincarnation, particularly after he
recounts to her how he ended up with a Germanic name. (His grandfather
encountered a German pilot during the Spanish Civil War, whom he
rescued from a tree). Their mutual attraction grows and intensifies but
for the sake of appearance, they act as if they dislike one another. Otto
contrives to move in with his father so he and Ana can consummate
their love, but the sudden death of his mother leaves Otto bereft and
the pair separate. As the years pass, however, each one cannot forget
the other and they gradually move toward reconciliation.
The film possesses the attributes of a fairy tale or fable and I
suspect that is what is off-putting to some. Yet Medem's story is no
less fantastical than some of Shakespeare's comedies (like TWELFTH NIGHT
or THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA which rely on the audience's
suspension of disbelief. So much of today's entertainment is aimed
at the lowest common denominator that it is a pleasure to find
someone actually attempting something that is so stunning in its
simplicity. Medem's consistent use of imagery and parallels is ingenious
and at times, heartbreaking. There is one sequence where both Otto
and Ana are in the same public square, indeed sit at cafe tables near
to one another but because of positioning fail to connect. Medem
frames the scene so that both are in the shot and you find yourself
wanting to yell "Turn around!" That one comes to care about these
characters is a tribute to both the film's clever script and direction
and the splendid performances of trio of actors and actresses playing
Otto and Ana at the various stages of their lives: as children,
Peru Medem (the director's son) and Sara Valiente; as teens,
Victor Hugo Oliveira and Kristel Díaz, and as adults, Fele Martinez
and Najwa Nimri.
There may be those cynics for whom the Romantic aspects
of LOVERS OF THE ARCTIC CIRCLE will be a disappointment. But
for those looking for a haunting love story of a fated relationship,
I recommend this film highly.
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality and brief language
Running time: 112 mins.
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.