Lovers of the Arctic Circle Review

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Emotions stonger than love bind a family together as a son's promise never to leave his divorced mother is tested.


Having plummeted to earth with that metaphysical misfire, Tierra, Julio Medem returned to the heights of 1992's Vacas and The Red Squirrel with his fourth feature. More accessible than his earlier work, it's a veritable house of cards, its intricate structure requiring a steady hand to prevent the entire edifice (or rather, artifice) from tumbling down.

Obsessed with the concept of eternal love, Otto promises his divorced mother that he will never abandon her. But then he discovers that his dad's new girlfriend is the mother of Ana, the girl he worships from afar. For her part, Ana is convinced that Otto is the embodiment of her dead father's spirit. So although life often forces them apart, they remain bound together by emotions stronger than love.

Revealing any more of the plot would detract from the pleasure of watching the elements slot satisfyingly into place. Suffice to say, palindromes, paper planes, velvet hearts, careering buses, Nazi parachutists and the land of the midnight sun all impinge on this intricate schemata.

Dividing the film into segments, Medem is able to impose a compelling order onto the seemingly endless round of chance happenings and coincidences that collude with the lovers' own caprices to forge their destiny.

With the curious circularity of events also playing its part, the film could have lapsed into pretentious philosophising. But, while it occasionally feels like a calculated exercise in nonlinearity, this is an essentially human story, with the more novelettish aspects of the melodrama redeemed by the originality of the ideas and precision of the direction.