You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Berlin Film Review: ‘Ága’

A melancholy-infused story of an isolated Inuit couple holding on to their traditions while global warming and the modern world encroach even in this remote outpost.

Director:
Milko Lazarov
With:
Mikhail Aprosimov, Feodosia Ivanova, Galina Tikhonova, Sergey Egorov, Afanasiy Kylaev. (Yakut-Sakha dialogue)

1 hour 36 minutes

An older Inuit couple are the last members of their ethnic group living on the ice in Milko Lazarov’s handsome paean to a dying culture, “Ága.” Shooting in the Russian republic of Sakha, famed for having the northern hemisphere’s coldest climate, the director largely uses a fixed camera that firmly places his characters within their harsh white environment, capturing the timelessness of a lifestyle that ironically has reached the end of its time. Shot through with melancholy as the husband and wife witness changes around them and in themselves, the film is a more attractively atmospheric piece than Lazarov’s previous feature, “Alienation,” and could see modest festival play.

Nanook (Mikhail Aprosimov) and Sedna (Feodosia Ivanova) lead a solitary, self-sufficient existence in their yurt on a snow-covered plateau with their one sled dog. Spring is coming earlier than usual, ice fishing is no longer bountiful, and airplane exhaust trails cross the sky with ever-increasing frequency. Sedna’s also noticing that Nanook is beginning to forget things, whereas he fails to notice the large dark patch on her side that’s giving her so much pain.

There’s not another soul anywhere nearby, which makes the occasional visits of Chena (Sergey Egorov) their one lifeline to the outside world. Together with wood and fuel, he brings news of their daughter Ága (Galina Tikhonova), who works at a diamond mine at a distant town; some time ago, she did something that Nanook found unforgivable, and they’ve been estranged ever since. Sedna speaks to her husband of forgiveness, and she’s even making a new hat for her daughter out of Arctic fox fur, but time is shorter than anyone imagines.

Lazarov never has his characters explain exactly what it was that Ága did to incur her father’s wrath, but it’s fairly clear that Nanook’s disappointment stems from her earlier decision to give up the family’s traditional ways and move to town. Backed by an endless flat horizon and isolated in the featureless snow, Nanook and Sedna truly seem like the last people on earth, witnessing transformations in the sky (the airplanes) and the ground (fewer native species). Nanook and Sedna mostly speak of the past, recalling better, more plentiful days before global warming as they look at an old black-and-white photograph of themselves together as a happy family, yet the winds of change literally tear through their world when a major storm nearly knocks down their yurt, adding to the sense of fast-approaching finality.

The screenplay’s simplicity is enriched by memorable images whose stillness adds to the overall aura of a period coming to an end. Not just the vast white plain, but jagged rocky outcrops that are only seen late in the film, as if forming a boundary to the edge of the world. Also impressive is a drone shot of the cavernous circular mine where Ága works, an unnatural borehole symbolizing how mankind has desecrated the earth. Lazarov’s one relatively cheap move arrives at the end, when he accompanies close-ups of two tear-streaked faces with the emotive Adagietto of Mahler’s 5th Symphony — it takes a hard heart not to cry during the Mahler, so why use the music to force what’s already an emotional scene?

Berlin Film Review: 'Ága'

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Out of competition), Feb. 22, 2018. Running time: 96 MIN.

Production: (Bulgaria-Germany-France) A Red Carpet, 42Film, Arizona Prods., BNT, ZDF/Arte production. (International sales: Beta Cinema, Oberhaching, Germany.) Producer: Veselka Kiryakova. Co-producers: Eike Goreczka, Christoph Kukula, Guillaume de Seille.

Crew: Director: Milko Lazarov. Screenplay: Lazarov, Simeon Ventsislavov. Camera (color, widescreen): Kaloyan Bozhilov. Editor: Veselka Kiryakova. Music: Penka Kouneva.

With: Mikhail Aprosimov, Feodosia Ivanova, Galina Tikhonova, Sergey Egorov, Afanasiy Kylaev. (Yakut-Sakha dialogue)

More Film

  • Vue International Acquires German Multiplex Circuit

    Vue International Acquires German Multiplex Circuit CineStar

    An older Inuit couple are the last members of their ethnic group living on the ice in Milko Lazarov’s handsome paean to a dying culture, “Ága.” Shooting in the Russian republic of Sakha, famed for having the northern hemisphere’s coldest climate, the director largely uses a fixed camera that firmly places his characters within their […]

  • Rome MIA Market Wraps Positively With

    Rome MIA Market Wraps Positively With Bigger U.S. Presence, Strong Product

    An older Inuit couple are the last members of their ethnic group living on the ice in Milko Lazarov’s handsome paean to a dying culture, “Ága.” Shooting in the Russian republic of Sakha, famed for having the northern hemisphere’s coldest climate, the director largely uses a fixed camera that firmly places his characters within their […]

  • India’s Roy Kapur Films Launches Eclectic

    India’s Roy Kapur Films Reveals Eclectic Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    An older Inuit couple are the last members of their ethnic group living on the ice in Milko Lazarov’s handsome paean to a dying culture, “Ága.” Shooting in the Russian republic of Sakha, famed for having the northern hemisphere’s coldest climate, the director largely uses a fixed camera that firmly places his characters within their […]

  • RYAN GOSLING as Neil Armstrong in

    Korea Box Office: ‘First Man’ Lands on Top at Weekend

    An older Inuit couple are the last members of their ethnic group living on the ice in Milko Lazarov’s handsome paean to a dying culture, “Ága.” Shooting in the Russian republic of Sakha, famed for having the northern hemisphere’s coldest climate, the director largely uses a fixed camera that firmly places his characters within their […]

  • Aaron Kwok, Chow Yun-fat

    China Box Office: Slowdown Continues as 'Gutenberg' Takes Third Weekend Win

    An older Inuit couple are the last members of their ethnic group living on the ice in Milko Lazarov’s handsome paean to a dying culture, “Ága.” Shooting in the Russian republic of Sakha, famed for having the northern hemisphere’s coldest climate, the director largely uses a fixed camera that firmly places his characters within their […]

  • The Road to Gender Parity, Italian

    The Road to Gender Parity, Italian Style

    An older Inuit couple are the last members of their ethnic group living on the ice in Milko Lazarov’s handsome paean to a dying culture, “Ága.” Shooting in the Russian republic of Sakha, famed for having the northern hemisphere’s coldest climate, the director largely uses a fixed camera that firmly places his characters within their […]

  • Unit stills photography

    London Film Review: 'Stan & Ollie'

    An older Inuit couple are the last members of their ethnic group living on the ice in Milko Lazarov’s handsome paean to a dying culture, “Ága.” Shooting in the Russian republic of Sakha, famed for having the northern hemisphere’s coldest climate, the director largely uses a fixed camera that firmly places his characters within their […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content