The frozen north is beautiful but cruel in Ága

A- Wilderness drama
Written by Milko Lazarov & Simeon Ventsislavov
Directed by Milko Lazarov

Life moves slowly in remote, far-north latitudes. People do difficult and dangerous chores by hand. Things don’t change much. And yet, Milko Lazarov’s new film, Ága, is never boring. This simple story of an aging Innuit couple has a lot to say and it says it well.

People stand and contemplate. Then they work hard, slowly doing jobs by hand, foot, and dog that most people would do easily with modern, or even 19th-century, technology. Nothing seems to move, and that means almost no sound. You feel like that there isn’t another person for hundreds of miles.

And yet the lack of motion, the lack of music (at least in the film’s first half), and the slightest of plots, provides this film its strength. You can’t help but love these two people. Besides, this is a beautiful film to look at. How could it not be?

Their world may be beautiful, but the couple are in trouble. They’re growing older and can’t move as fast as they used to. On top of that, the wildlife is disappearing. Fish, reindeer, and other game they depend on are harder to find.

Ága isn’t a period piece. Early on, the husband watches a jet plane fly far overhead. His matter-of-fact reaction tells us that it’s a common sight. Their home contains machine-made dishes, a teapot, a gas lantern, and a radio that can barely get a station. Although no one mentions it, we all know why there are fewer animals. This film is as much about climate change as it is about two aging people living in a yurt. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that their way of life is coming to an end.

A young man arrives on a snowmobile. He brings things, and more importantly, he brings news of their now-adult daughter – the Ága of the title. At some point in the past, she did something her parents didn’t like. We’re never told what. She now works in a diamond mine; her parents haven’t seen her in years.

I don’t know what the name Ága means, but the screenwriters gave her father the name Nanook, as in Nanook of the North. Clearly, they wanted to pay tribute to the first feature film shot in the far north, and the first about its indigenous people. His wife’s name is Sedna – a goddess in Inuit mythology.

You may have noticed that I’ve mentioned the far north, but not Alaska or Canada. Despite the Inuit names, the dialogue is in the Siberian Yakut language. It’s officially a Bulgarian film, and the leading actors are Mikhail Aprosimov and Feodosia Ivanova.

You’ll want to settle down for this one. it’s worth the effort.

Ága will play at the Roxie Saturday through Tuesday. Hopefully, it will have a longer run there and also elsewhere.

One thought on “The frozen north is beautiful but cruel in Ága

  1. Thanks for your review. I have enjoying reading and learning about the Inuit and their lives. This film sounds very interesting.

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