An idealistic young poet in 1920s Norway has his romantic worldview challenged when he signs up to be a fur trapper in the wilds of Greenland. Armed with little more than a violin, a love letter, and a seemingly unshakeable sense of optimism, Larsen reluctantly leaves his loving fiancée and the genteel spires of Oslo for the frozen desolations and howling winds of his temporary new home. But when he finds himself in close quarters with Randbæk, a brutal and desperately unhappy fellow trapper whose own dreams have been systematically destroyed, he begins to question everything he’s previously taken for granted: the unyielding nature of love, the inherent goodness of man, and the belief in a subtle form of justice which underlies everything we do. As Larsen and Randbæk’s adversarial relationship becomes increasingly toxic (a temporary yuletide truce turns especially ugly and almost unbearably poignant) their other cabin mate Jakob, a preternaturally stoic scientist whose calm mannerisms belie a strong will and fierce sense of honour, acts as both detached observer, reluctant referee and, ultimately, judge and jury. Hans Petter Moland’s intense psychological tragedy is set, appropriately enough, in a landscape of towering glaciers and barren rock devoid of any civilized niceties and completely indifferent to the plight of those small sparks of warmth struggling to survive within it. With only themselves to rely on, his three vastly different characters form a surprisingly complex triad wherein the overwhelming demands of survival are precariously balanced against each man’s own personal needs; whether it be Randbæk’s yearning for redemption, Larsen’s quest for validation, or Jakob’s unwillingness to compromise his values. Nicely filmed with a haunting score and strong performances all around, even the ubiquitous sled dogs howl and whimper on cue, Moland’s arctic drama delivers an emotional chill as bitter as its wintry backdrop.
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