This was the first film I went to see at the New Horizons festival 2018. Although New Horizons is one of the most incredible film events in Wrocław, I joined for the very first time. And I can only say: finally!
I went to see Arctic for only one reason: Mads Mikkelsen. I could be called a fangirl, to be honest, I don’t mind. He has an incredible skill and even better personality (or at least “public personality”). He is humble and gives his whole heart to each project he participates in. No matter if it’s a small film by an unknown director or a huge blockbuster from Marvel or Star Wars franchise. And when you hear him talking about it, the perception changes completely.
I used to love Mads for his Hannibal, but my true appreciation came after The Hunt and knowing how much he differs from both of the characters. And what was very important to me, he decided not to go into method acting. He wanted to stay himself for his family. So no matter how he loves his job, he didn’t want to make the choice between that and the life of a husband and a father.
After the introduction, I feel obliged to say why I made this fangirl’s ode. Arctic is a one-actor film. Apart from a very small role of an unknown Thai actress, Mads Mikkelsen was the only face we follow for over one and a half hour. I couldn’t have thought of any better choice for that challenge. Mads’ face can show volumes of feelings which I don’t believe mine can. He can tell everything without words and this was the magic of Arctic.
The story focuses on a pilot whose plane crashed somewhere close to the North Pole. Through his routine, he wants to establish a connection with civilization. He clears his SOS sign, he catches fish and tries to charge a radio with the strength of his muscles. He spends every hour doing exactly what he planned to increase the chances of being rescued. But then his survival routine changes because of yet another plane crash. A Thai woman survived it but she got an ugly wound and is now sick. She can’t leave the bed, she’s barely conscious so he decides to save her by any means necessary.
The film itself couldn’t differ much from any other survival one. Human survival in difficult habitat isn’t a very broad subject and I strongly believe that cinema explored all of these emotions at least a thousand times. The art lies in expression and creating the atmosphere of empathy. Thoughts of what I would do in such a situation bugged me for the entire film and long afterwards. The reflection of humanity and our ethics was told by almost silent film and it stuck me with questions I believed I’d known answers to.
Meanwhile, it made me appreciate the beauty of the icy landscapes. The cinematography work was very thorough, especially since they were shooting while the snow was melting. All these icebergs were magnificent and mesmerizing. They composed perfectly with the music by Joseph Trapanesse (known from The Greatest Showman, Oblivion or Straight Outta Compton).
To be honest there’s nothing more I could say that won’t feel at least blunt. It is hard to describe feelings, especially the ones which are shown, not told. This film has the magic of the story about how to be true to oneself and how to love one another, no matter how hard the situation becomes.
But just hold on for a minute. The film might have been over, but there was more to it than you could have imagined. To be honest I hadn’t thought that meeting a director who is yet to get his experience so refreshing. Joe Penna was a kindred spirit with a very Brasilian soul. He was ecstatic and proud of this event. And damn, he should have! Arctic was his debut on the big screen and very close to reality. His previous shorts and TV series were mostly sci-fi and considered subjects questioning the future rather than the present. Answering one of the questions from the audience, the director revealed that this was supposed to be a sci-fi film. Survival, sure, but – on Mars. But then someone reminded him that Ridley Scott actually had done a tiny film in 2015. He admitted that it worked in his favour since it would be much harder to make the audience understand the lack of air or a necessity of a pressure suit.
Being myself, I asked about working with Mads. Using my words in some way, Joe said that he was fangirling over him for 20 minutes before he could get anyhow professional. And if that doesn’t make you like the guy, I don’t know what would. He then told us how professional Mads is and how much time they spent together working at every damn scene. Also, what was surprising, he also said that Mads played in every damn scene. Even when he didn’t have to. Even when they shot landscapes with a very small human figure. Every damn scene was his. And then, being a professional he is, he asked whether it was all okay or should they redo it.
I hope someone gives Joe a chance to prove himself in a real-deal Hollywood sci-fi or whatever he sees himself in. His passion for film was flowing all around him and it was such a pleasant thing to look at. I wish him all the best in the future.