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Lovers of the Arctic Circle (1998)
Destiny cannot be denied.
Filmmaker(s): Julio Medem

Otto and Ana are kids when they meet each other. Their names are palindromes. They meet by chance, people are related by chance. A story of circular lives, with circular names, and a circular place where the day never ends in the midnight sun. There are things that never end, and Love is one of them.

Lovers of the Arctic Circle (1998)

Geometric Cosmologies

This is so beautiful, it hurts. Tender.

It is a lacy filigree in what it is, essentially a story about longing, urges and space. But that filigree extends to the nature of the space that surrounds the story on screen. And the motion of weaving extends further to the shape of the narrative threads which present the story and urges.

Some viewers will be put off by the structure. It may seem contrived or mechanical, though hardly more so than the usual way which rigidly starts at the beginning and rolls in only one direction. To others it may seem like a lot of unnecessary work. Well, it does require some engagement, but that’s the nature of poetry. And unlike “Irreversible” and “Memento” there’s more to it than merely sharing the discovery of knowing with the main character.

I’m convinced that there is a mode of storytelling, the deepest, richest, most rewarding mode… a manner of structuring narrative in such a way that we are ‘folded’ into the story, both watching and participating.

I further believe that the most powerful of folds have geometric structure. We are after all geometric thinkers at root. We think we live in a world of shape and form and reason about that world in the same way. All this is underscored in cinema, which reshapes that real world in ways that we can handle and examine. I’ll go so far as to posit that the best art has a story, a presentation of that story and an annotation of the nature of art and presentation, all using the same strokes and shapes.

Geometric folds, cosmologies, readable structure.

Medem is our current master of this. His “Sex and Lucia” goes much further than this in the complexity of structure and the circularity of urge weaving future pasts. But this has an appeal in its simplicity.

As with “Lucia” (a scrambled ‘Alice’ story), you can start anywhere “Hopscotch” -wise and build from there on reflection after leaving the theatre. Were the lovers related? Was the girlfriend his mother? Did they even ever meet on the plaza? Did he die in the trees after weaving a happy virtual life? Or was it one circular boyish ejaculation under his bed? Along the way, look for airplanes: starting with a zillion paper airplanes thrown out a window with a message so dear that it changes everyone it touches. Overlap that with the image of having the courage to come back in through the (same) window and touch someone with love.

There are a few patterns in the lace here that you will take with you for the rest of your life. And anything that can do that, and do it using the language of dreams in such a way that makes love more lucid. If it can do that, you’ll want to see it, handle it, co-invent with it, turn it over in your mind, a golden woven solid of wires as geometric urges.

And it is so much richer if you know the story between the filmmaker and his father to whom this is dedicated. And that Medem’s own son plays the boy. Start with “Lucia”. It is a masterpiece. Then absorb this.

Posted in 2006

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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