The Journals of Knud Rasmussen

The Journals of Knud Rasmussen

3.5 out of 53.5 out of 53.5 out of 53.5 out of 5 3.5

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In The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, writer-directors Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn (creators of the highly regarded Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner) drop us with neither prelude nor introduction into the early-20th-century world of the Iglulik shaman, Avva (Pakak Innukshuk), who is desperately trying to hold onto ancestral traditions in the wake of a destructive influx of Christianity. Over two brilliantly sustained long takes, Avva explains his cultural and spiritual history to the Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen (Jens Jørn Spottag) and Cohn’s hi-definition, hand-held videography bears profound witness, though this may not come across in the immediate. It takes a long while to adjust to Journals’ somnambulant rhythms, but this is a different kind of dull from Tian Zhuangzhuang’s failed biopic, The Go Master, where a most intriguing clash of cultures is drowned in a prettified sea of stately pageantry. Tian isn’t interested in illumination; Kunuk and Cohn are, and they’re willing to take their time penetrating, at least to these culturally biased eyes, Journals’ seemingly inexplicable veneer. What holds everything in place are the physiognomies of the primarily non-professional cast (lived-in and expressive faces that the bleeding-heart liberal in us all might describe, with no small amount of pat-‘em-on-the-head condescension, as “authentic”) and Cohn’s increasingly impressive photography, which never goes for exoticized landscape glamour shots, but instead pushes forward, deeper and deeper among the ruins of a culture cast fatally adrift by modernization.

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DVD
Distributor
Isuma USA
Runtime
112 min
Rating
NR
Year
2006
Director
Zacharias Kunuk, Norman Cohn
Screenwriter
Zacharias Kunuk, Norman Cohn
Cast
Leah Angutimarik, Pakak Innukshuk, Neeve Irngaut Uttak, Natar Ungalaaq, Samuelie Ammaq, Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq, Catharine Alaralak, Abraham Ulayuruluk, Tommy Uttak, Apayata Kotierk, Jens Jørn Spottag, Kim Bodnia, Jakob Cedergren