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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The original and still the best documentary ever made., 5 Oct 2000
By A Customer
"Nanook of the North" was the first film ever to be described as a "documentary" and often appears on lists of the world's greatest films. But has it really stood the test of time? It is, after all, more than an hour long; black & white; silent (providing you turn down the irritating music track which was added later); filmed with a single camera and entirely about the life of an eskimo family nearly a hundred years ago. The answer is that it is visually stunning and emotionally gripping. Even the opening head & shoulders shot of Nanook is intriguing, showing a smile as enigmatic as that of the Mona Lisa.
Flaherty manages to show the people and the landscape as they are, with the minimum of obvious interference. Indeed, although he was really a surveyor and prospector by profession, his approach has much in common with ethnographic anthropology which was developing at the same time. He observes and studies and thus informs the viewer.
This is not to say that the film hasn't been criticised, like every subsequent documentary, for "rigging" certain shots. He built a double-size, half igloo in order to shoot the interior shots. But how would YOU shoot the inside of an igloo illuminated only by a small square of translucent ice!
Flaherty's lens may be neutral, but it is by no means dispassionate. He is the master of the technical and aesthetic aspects of cinematography: focus is as crisp as the snow & ice it depicts; framing as well-composed as the expressions on the faces of the Inuit; black & white photography as stark as the rocks and snow themselves.
This film is much more than these techniques though. What really locks the viewer's eyes to the screen is the sheer gruelling nature of the eskimoes' life; the battle against the harsh terrain; the freezing temperatures and difficulty in finding and catching food. The skill which Nanook applies in sledging over drifted piles of snow, building an igloo or spearing fish through a hole in the ice is in no way comparable to the skill of an actor, stuntman or special effects artist. This is his Life.
It was also his death, for within a few years of the film's release he had died of starvation on a deer hunt. This puts into perspective any criticism about the filming technique employed for the igloo interior. "Nanook of the North" is no fake: Nanook's life was as real as it gets!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different world, 7 April 2009
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Shot nearly 100 years ago, this film is from a different age and a different place. Even if the way of life it depicts is not quite accurate, there is no getting away from the sheer age of this film. The language is great, and the cultural assumptions of the film maker as well as the eskimos comes through. Somehow the idea of being a human being who is really at the mercy of the earth, along with a community also at the mercy of the earth, comes through in this film, something that can be all too easy to forget...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nanook and Family, 19 April 2013
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This is an incredible record of family life in the arctic. The copy is excellent but loses a star as it is impossible to remove the Korean sub titles which block the original wording (unless run at x2 speed!!)
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you are interested in the Arctic and the Inuit..., 27 Oct 2009
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this is essential viewing. Though it is a very old fashioned silent film, it is a rare record of native life in the far north. Where European explorers struggled to survive even one winter, the Inuit people had spread out over the Arctic region and had survived for centuries. Much of this film is staged as Inuit hunters were already using guns and ammunition by the time this was filmed. The way of life that it shows was already in the past but it does give you some idea of how the Inuit hunted and lived before contact with Europeans.
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4.0 out of 5 stars John burns, 1 Mar 2014
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john burns "john" (dundee scotland uk) - See all my reviews
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only four stars for a five star film which it is also it,s an import but all region so no worries there the film is about a family of native AMERICANS who we call ESKIMOS and their leader the film was made by Robert flaherty who stayed and lived with them to make this film and how they live and survive in such a cold lifeless looking climate which it turns out is not the case as you find out as the film progresses it shows how they hunt fish and move around from place to place without getting lost which in it,s self is amazing you also see how they build their shelter and equipment which the modern day ESKIMO now takes for granted as they do not use any of the old skills as much aye recommend this film to students or anyone who interested in this subject matter aye no you can read about it but now you can watch it as well which makes all the difference highly recommended watch and be amazed and fascinated as the film unfolds only problem is it,s not long enough but you know what they say about a good thing watch and enjoy many thanks thank you again
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