The fast runner, according to Inuit legend, is the man compelled to escape by running naked through the snow when tragedy strikes. But years before that pivotal event takes place in Zacharias Kunuk’s award-studded Canadian film (part Northern travelogue, part thriller), an evil shaman’s curse has compelled two young brothers to hate each other and wreak havoc in their community. As adults, the two fight over the right to marry a beautiful woman, and Atanarjuat, the victorious suitor, is repeatedly shunned and eventually ambushed. Escape, rape, murder, and mayhem follow.
This is the first feature film written, directed, and acted entirely by Inuit people. Inuit sculptor Natar Ungalaaq is compelling as the brave, robust Atanarjuat, and the other Inuit actors give a raw authenticity to this unusual film. Although at times Atanarjuat is slow-moving and devoid of narrative content, there’s plenty of igloo sex and ice-floe violence, and stunning cinematography from Norman Cohn. In Inuktitut with English subtitles.