Film review

The Fast Runner

Bursting onto the scene out of nowhere (literally, this film is out of the boonies of Canada) is Fast Runner, or for those of you out there who speak the Inuit language Inuktitut, that would be Atanarjuat.

Taking place near the first millennium, Fast Runner centers on the lives of two brothers, Atanarjuat and Amaqjuaq (Natar Ungalaaq and Pakkak Innushuk) who live in the small Inuit community of Igloolik. An uncomplicated way of life and days of happiness are placed in jeopardy when Atanarjuat falls for the betrothed of local meanie Oki.

Atanarjuat and Oki stage a brutally straightforward duel. Standing toe to toe, the two exchange blows to each other’s temples until one loses consciousness. Guys, this is the real way to settle your petty barroom disputes.

After the hoopla, life progresses normally until once-banished evils return to the community.

Blending shamanism, moral consciousness and filial piety with the boundless recesses of the tundra, Atanarjuat creates an unquestionably stirring narrative with eye-blinding beauty (no kidding about this: most characters in the film wear an archaic form of sunglasses to keep themselves from snowblindness).

Although this idyllic lifestyle is jeopardized by the rooted evils of the human heart, there remains something enviable represented by the Inuit tribe at the center of this film. They lead a simpler life, their pleasures taken from a successful hunt, a new birth, or the rejoining of old friends, not from a Dodge Viper, a sports team’s well-being, or a 6-pack of Stroh’s. Trekking barefoot across expanses of pack ice is not my idea of “Party Night,” nor is it for Atanarjuat, but it’s difficult to not assess this film’s splendor to the richness of a life untrammeled by the extra trappings of humankind. (Sean McGrath)