Bjornoya | Bear Island (2014) l Nordic Film Festival 4 – 8 December 2015
Writer| Director: Edda Grjotheim, Inge Wegge
78min | Action Documentary | Norway
A snowboarding and surfing trip to Bear Island in the Barents Sea seems like a foolhardy idea even by Norwegian standards but this is an upbeat and highly entertaining caper captured in this surprisingly well-crafted documentary.
The three cheerful brothers- Hakon, Markus and Inge – who looks surprisingly like Jesse Eisenberg – set off on their daredevil mission all kitted up to nines with cold weather gear and prepared for the elements. A jaunty soundtrack accompanies the doc’s extraordinary live action sequences showing the guys to be fit, well-prepared and genial despite the seriously scary weather conditions. Getting on like a tent on fire, (they kindle a wood fire inside it to light their stove) they even get up early one bone-numbing morning to swim naked in the sea.
Cinematically this provides some sublimely eerie images of perma cold conditions, floating mists – the only brightness coming from the brothers’ high tech suits. There are some inventive moments with the camera occasionally grazing the ground, split screen shots, time-lapses and slo-mo adding a comtemplative, dreamlike touch that contrasts well with the brothers’ high energy, feel good vibe. No sibling rivalry here.
The awe-inspiring remoteness of the terrain is surprisingly devoid of animal life – an arctic fox scampers by foraging for food and seal blubber slips onto the menu eventually to make things authentic. Clearly not something the boys wish to eat with its nauseous taste of cod liver oil. On a more alarming level, the boys comment on the constant stream of plastic floating towards the North Pole – one even tries some Sprite left in one sealed bottle.
Masochists, nature enthusiasts and extreme sports fans will love this arthouse doc that transports you to the Northern tip of Europe but body-boarding in the frost laden waters of the Barents sea feels so hostile and bleak that the trip takes on endurance test proportions – not only for the cast – despite the endlessly chipper commentary. That said, there is a naked beauty and a balletic rhythm to this documentary that marks the directors out to be talented pair who will hopefully go on to produce more of this kind of ‘extreme sport in remote locations’ fare that’s entertaining when one can appreciate it from the warmth of the cinema.MT
THE 4th NORDIC FILM FESTIVAL | 3 -8 DECEMBER 2015 | THE FESTIVAL STARTS IN LONDON ON 4 DECEMBER AND GOES NATIONWIDE UNTIL JANUARY 2016 | BRISTOL | GLASGOW | NOTTINGHAM