Sunday, June 6, 2010

C: Nanook of the North

Yes, my tastes tend to the offbeat. I was waltzing around the cable last weekend and happened on to a black-and-white scene of Eskimos killing a two-ton Walrus. I was fascinated. There was something compelling about the scene itself, and the cinematography caught my rapt attention.

I flicked the remote "info" button and was shocked to see "1922" as the date! Sure enough, soon flashed one of those silent-movie placards that substitutes for narration or dialogue in these very-old movies. Indeed, this was shot during the silent era. And the rest of the movie was so captivating that I went straight to the computer to research it and to order from Amazon.

Nanook of the North is considered a foundational film for documentaries. When my copy was delivered to the office, one of my staff asked what was in the box. When I replied, "Nanook of the North" two of the young whippersnappers spoke up to say that they had studied this film in their film history class. Guess I'm the last to know.

This weekend my mother and I watched the entire thing. She was as captivated as I was. I learned so much from this film, chiefly that I could never make it in their environment. Just a few of the my most favorite pieces of information:

How to build and igloo! Took them an hour. Silly me, I had always envisioned little igloo villages! Apparently these people were purely nomadic, building these igloos as they went from hunting area to hunting area. Fascinating. But the insides must, of course, be kept below freezing in order to keep the house from melting over your head!

The Eskimo babies are carried in pouches on the back of their mothers' parkas. They were nude. I have lots of questions about this that remain unanswered by the film...

The hunting scenes were riveting. Nanoonk showed how to kill and disect walrus and how to spear seals under ice. I guess necessity is the mother of invention.

I found myself worrying about Nanook's sled dogs having to suffer outside in the cold and whether they were given enough to eat for all they do--and this some 80+ years after they are all dead! Amazing.

I am of the understanding that the film received later criticsm for staging some of the scenes, but I tell you, if you are interested in traditonal living and other cultures, you will be riveted by this film.