'Aga': Film Review

'Aga': Film Review

Some movies only work if projected on the largest screens accessible, and Milko Lazarov's Berlinale nearer, Aga,drops in that class. A narratively straightforward story about an older Yakut few living in a yurt amid the frozen expanses of northeastern Siberia, its effect is based quite heavily on Kaloyan Bozhilov's royal widescreen cinematography. One-off engagements in appropriately huge spaces -- such as outdoor places -- could observe this Bulgarian-German-French co-production split a great little market beyond the festival circuit.

Following his 2013 introduction, Alienation, that parlayed a prize-winning introduction at Venice to a respectable festival series, director/co-writer Lazarov now explicitly engages with a few of the most well-known and controversial ethnographic movies ever produced: Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North (1922). Widely described as a milestone in ancient documentary, Nanook has been the topic of heated debate within its mixing of fiction and nonfiction facets because it depicts the everyday lives of both"Eskimos" ("Inuit" has become the preferred term) from the Canadian Arctic.

Aga, nevertheless,is much more unambiguously fictional, together with Mikhail Aprosimov and Feodosia Ivanova enjoying the long-marrieds. She's called Sedna, for the Inuit sea goddess (along with the distant mini-planet that's the coldest known human body in our galaxy, aptly enough.) Apparently the final remnants of those reindeer-herding tribes which once roamed this hardly populated region, the dedicated duo now mainly gets by through icehole-fishing and trapping smaller creatures.

Reindeer -- glimpsed on the fringes of a classic picture -- are decidedly elusive, very sometimes glimpsed, and there is the sense that historical manners might well be on the point of expiring before our eyes. This passing happened under some type of unspecified dark blur -- Lazarov's screenplay, co-written using Simeon Ventsislavov, doles out advice at a really individual and parsimonious method.

Taking his cue from Nanook and Sedna's sedate pace of life, Lazarov spins out his small fable using a serene langour that needs a certain level of patience out of the crowd. However there are enough moments of beauty, charm and dry comedy along the way to keep interest and engagement. His installation of audio is very powerful and inventive, with songs (like Mahler's Fifth Symphony) from a crackling old radio supplying a plangent background for storytelling along with the recounting of fantasies.

Composer Penka Kouneva's gifts are low-profile till she actually comes into her own in the last action: Long-pent-up feelings come surging forth amid swirlingly lush orchestrations that would not seem strange at a 1940s melodrama. It is a speculative eleventh-hour inventive gambit from Lazarov, but pays dividends. Concluding with an amazing pull-back in the diamond mine that offers a last reminder of Bozhilov's pictorial abilities, Aga appears as a winning blend of this cozily intimate and the sublimely epic.


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