Nanook of the North (1922)
“The mysterious Barren Lands — desolate, boulder-strewn, wind-swept — illimitable spaces which top the world.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
I’m much less concerned than Peary about either of these two issues. Watching how a group of humans manage to survive in seemingly unlivable conditions is sufficient “drama” for my tastes; and while it’s true that many of the scenes were commissioned specifically for the film, as Roger Ebert puts it so bluntly in his “Great Movies” review, “If you stage a walrus hunt, it still involves hunting a walrus, and the walrus hasn’t seen the script.” What does concern me a bit are two other points: first, that Nanook and his “family” aren’t really a family (apparently Flaherty talked openly about this fact, but it’s not mentioned at any point during the film itself, which feels deceptive); and second, that the survival techniques used by Nanook were already becoming antiquated at the time Flaherty shot his footage. In both cases, simply providing a written disclaimer at the beginning of the film would have been enough to satisfy my needs.
Regardless, Nanook… remains a movie all film fanatics should see — not only for its incredible pseudo-ethnographic footage of a bygone era, but for its undeniable (if controversial) place in documentary filmmaking history.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)
One thought on “Nanook of the North (1922)”
A once-must, at least – ’cause no self-respecting ff should ever say, “Why, no, I haven’t seen ‘Nanook of the North’!”
~not only is it that famous a doc, but it’s a pretty good one. It’s certainly a more interesting early doc than, say, ‘Drifters’ – and filmed with a better visual sense. It’s under 80 minutes and moves rather swiftly.
‘NOTN’ could possibly be a good title to have in a collection. It’s one of those which can serve to remind – if you’re having a hard or bad day – that maybe your day isn’t going that badly after all. …And remind me to never visit the Arctic Circle. Brrr!!!
Fave scene: Nanook puts a ‘window’ in the igloo. Clever guy!