Dream Team

A review of "Lovers of the Arctic Circle"

| October 14, 1999
Lovers beneath a northern sky.
Lovers beneath a northern sky.

*Lovers of the Arctic Circle (R)
Fine Line Cinema

It has infidelity, teenage sex and lots of car crashes. Could Lovers of the Arctic Circle be destined for box-office stardom?

Well, considering that this languorous, haunting film was released in the United States about nine months ago and has only just arrived in our fair city, home of 27 theaters playing Runaway Bride, I doubt that the film will stick around for more than a week.

All the more reason that, if you have a romantic bone in your body, you should eschew the cookie-cutter Hollywood love stories, ditch work at 4, and catch an early-bird show at Cinema 70.

At the center of this lovely Spanish film are two strange and intense characters, Otto (Fele Martinez) and Ana (Najwa Nimri). They first fall in love as young children, believing even at an early age that they are fated to be together. When Otto's father (Nancho Novo) marries Ana's mother (Maru Valdivielso), they carry on their passionate affair under the same roof until Otto's mother dies of a broken heart. Devastated by his guilt at abandoning his mother for the pleasures of his lover's bed, the young adult Otto leaves Ana and his family to become a pilot ferrying packages between Finland and Spain. Ana, determined that this will not be the last chapter in their affair, goes to Finland to wait for him.

Despite strong performances by all the actors, most notably Nancho Novo as Otto's father (I have sincere hopes that some Hollywood casting director will pick up on this talented Spanish actor so we can see much more of him), this is really a director's film. Director (and writer) Julio Medem relies upon directorial sleight of hand to stuff the film full of symbolism and portent, convincing us that this love has been destined for generations.

Coincidence after coincidence, some good, some tragic, weave their way throughout the tale. The characters shift through time, one moment young children, the next teenagers, as fast as the editor can cut.

Cinematographer Gonzalo F. Berridi captures wind, water, fire and earth in surprising and beautiful ways. And always there is the symbol of the Arctic Circle that draws them tighter and tighter together.

Lovers of the Arctic Circle can get a little ponderous at times, a little too engaged in the symbolic imagery and slightly too demanding of your patience. But that insistence on the magical dream, no matter how stretched the coincidences, no matter how forceful the imagery, is also the strength of the film. There are some absolutely enchanting moments in Lovers of the Arctic Circle, and, unlike its fluffy Hollywood cousins, this fable of fated lovers continues to haunt long after the last reel.

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