Movie Reviews
12:09 pm
Tue August 27, 2002

The Fast Runner

...it's not quite Shakespeare but close.

How many times have you heard this philosophy in film: "All I have is memory"? "The Fast Runner" is just such a memory film of the Iglooik people telling a 1000 year-old story of feuding brothers, unfaithful wives, and patricide most foul. The beginning voiceover says, "I can only say this story to someone who understands it."

If it sounds like "King Lear" or "Hamlet," it's not quite Shakespeare but close. It is as close to today's internecine and global wars as any other movie you will see this year.

Set against the vast, frozen, flat, brilliantly-lit Arctic Circle, this tragic tale slowly reveals a small family circle that must deal with their crimes without the help of kings or counselors or cops. They have only themselves, and despite that, or perhaps because of it, they must work out solutions that not only do not disintegrate the circle but also mete out the punishment satisfactorily.

A naked man running for his life for 15 hours over the frozen tundra is an enduring image; two men alternately hitting each other in the face, waiting for the blows, is as unusual a fight scene as you will ever see. It's all a part of the heavily ritualized culture, where breaking from the norm is a critical occurrence. Everyone sleeping in the same tent lends a new meaning to family unity. Forgiveness for heinous crime is a lesson still to be learned by far more advanced cultures.

I was moved by the grandeur of last year's epic "Himalaya." This year's extraordinary "Fast Runner" has given that film a run for its money. The humanity of the characters, both good and bad, and the dazzlingly vistas make this film memorable. Don't miss the outtakes at the closing credits and the shots of the very modern actors who so convincingly play first-millennium Inuits.

"The Fast Runner" deserved the Camera d'OR for best first film at Cannes.