Northern Light Screen 5 articles

Northern Light

2013

Northern Light Poster
  • Watching Northern Light casually, it’s easy to miss the specific details that make up the lives of these people or the ways in which they interrelate. Bentgen unfolds his rural observational portrait in seemingly disparate chunks of real time, regularly intercutting between different groups of people and liberally mixing in peripheral community members. His camera generally rests at a significant remove from the action, seldom offering a comprehensive view of a given scene.

  • Northern Light is ultimately not a sports film but a look at life near the bottom of the American economic ladder that doesn’t rely on the novelty of its setting or the comparatively easy suspense of a sporting event. It’s one sharp impression after another of people whose attempt to simulate a normal suburban existence shows cracks at every level.

  • A major undertaking - spending over a year in the lives of two working-class, snowmobile-racing families in Upper Michigan - and a work of art, using landscape shots and moments of repose for a contemplative rhythm... This kind of thing is so new, an intimate observational doc that goes for mood as well as vérité, that the rules are still being made.

  • There’s a stillness to the filmmaking, coupled with Saunder Jurriaans and Danny Bensi’s truly lovely original score, that lends specific shots — toddlers bundled up like pastel Ewoks on a snowdrift, or a bakery window glowing like a still life in a gallery — a near-heartbreaking melancholy. “Northern Light” contains more than one competition, but what it’s really about is the difference between trying to win and trying not to lose.

  • The prospect of these individuals overcoming adversity by succeeding in a race may flirt with the trappings of a formulaic sports drama, but Bentgen shuns the conventionally bathetic through his coolly restrained style and ellipses, which never provides any narrative context or formally introduces or identifies any of his subjects; it isn't even understood until well into the film, once characters begin talking after a protracted opening silence, that the setting is America.