Reindeer (Weber 2011) : UK

Reviewed by Cia. Viewed at the AFI Fest 2012.

” Four hundred kilometers above the Arctic Circle in Utsjoki, Finland, thousands of reindeer are herded and distributed to their owners after grazing in the mountains during the warmer season. The Sami people, indigenous to this Arctic region in Finland’s northernmost country, depend on these mysterious creatures for their livelihood as they brave temperatures as low as minus 18 degrees.” Amy @ North Sea Air

Filming Locations: Karigasniemi, Finland

HSI London Production

Producer: Gareth Thomas. Executive Producers: Cara Speller, Nicola Doring. Cinematographer: Alex Reid.

Editor: Fiona DeSouza

Eva Weber’s Reindeer Wrangling is a 3 minute impressionistic short. Every image is visually stunning, creating an intimate state of winter wonder. Beautifully lit and shot in the Arctic, the editing is seamless, the sounds distinct in the quiet wilderness yet softened by snowfall.  Weber’s brilliance comes together in her insightful and economical use of imagery as pure cinematic poetry.

An establishing shot of white wilderness, a row of trees in the far distance and thousands of reindeer moving across the icy tundra. We hear their distant movement and dog-like grunts. Cut to a close on gloved hands holding binoculars, the eyes of the binoculars watching- cut.  We tunnel through heavy snow falling on a road lit in the dark by the lights of a vehicle we are in, but don’t see. There is a sense of not knowing where we are going creating an immediate watchfulness, the sound of reindeer grunts are now among us. These sounds, the motion of driving, the snow falling on the road as our only visual, all heighten the present tense of poetic wonder in the moment, thus begins a subtle openness of focus and flow of point of view.

It almost feels shot in black and white at first, with the light and dark tones of the Arctic. Closer shots soon reveal the natural light browns of the reindeer bringing subtle warmth to the screen, then the contrast of the bright colored jackets worn by the Sami people in the background all work to achieve the constant watchful state of this visual journey. The pacing  from long shots to close shots and the contrasting cuts from action to still life-like shots brilliantly keep us on our toes of present tense. In one shot reindeer are running  wild in circles, grunting loud, their hoofs in an intense rolling gallop- cut to a medium shot of the fence lit by a working light that captures the quiet rush of snow falling.  Another extreme close on snow falling as huge flakes blizzard the screen is absolute magic as is her use of over the shoulder reindeer shots that place us in the herd among the antlers, our point of view – blurred colors in motion- creating not only a sense of reindeer wonder but conversation.  For a moment, we are reindeer.

 

German born Eva Weber is based in London where she has worked for BBC Broadcast as a director. Other films by Weber include The Solitary Life of Cranes, Steel Homes, Disgraceful Conduct,  The Intimacy of Strangers & Night Peace. She has been nominated for seven film awards and has won six. Many of her films are produced by Odd Girl Out Productions. Weber’s new documentary entitled Black Out will premier mid November in Amsterdam.

 

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