Nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign-Language film in 1987, PATHFINDER provides a rousingly old-fashioned good time. Norwegian director Nils Gaup has a real talent for straightforward, soul-stirring action, a gift that has already landed him employment at Disney Studios. In the 10th century, on the frozen plains of Lapland, in the northernmost part of Norway, a peaceful tribe of families is menaced by nomadic savages called the Tchude. Sixteen-year-old Aigin (Mikkel Gaup) returns from a solo hunting trip to witness his parents and little sister being murdered by this savage
band. He is wounded by a Tchude crossbow, but manages to escape on a single ski to a neighboring tribe. He warns this tribe of the oncoming savagery of the Tchude, and the camp is split between those who want to stay and fight and others who choose to flee to a safer haven on the northern coast. Aigin stays back at the campsite with the braver element and is captured by the Tchude, who slaughter all of the other remaining men. The Tchude then force Aigin to lead them to those who fled. When all seems most hopeless, however, Aigin concocts an eleventh-hour scheme that places him in deadly peril but that eventually saves the day.
PATHFINDER is based on an ancient Lapp legend and is the first film to be shot in the Lapp language. It is also the first Scandinavian film to be made in wide-screen 70-millimeter Panavision and recorded in Dolby six-track stereo, and these two technical processes give vital dimension to the tale. Indeed, if there is any one true star of the piece, it is Erling Thurmann-Andersen's awe-inspiring cinematography, which captures the icy, bleak terrain of the Arctic with sublime power. The plot unfolds slowly, but gathers force as it reaches its exhilarating, death-defying climax. It behooves the viewer to set aside all expectations of immediate slam-bang gratification and merely revel in the invigorating, unfamiliar locale--the world of Scandinavian folklore. Animals figure prominently in this milieu, adding their own aura of mythic depth.
The acting is as artless as is required. Mikkel Gaup, besides being a whiz on skis, is angelic and determined; Nils Utsi as Raste, Aigin's spiritual leader, is saturnine and self-sacrificing; and the Tchude themselves ooze evil, with Svein Scharffenberg a terrifying standout as their leader. It should be noted that the Lapp tribeswomen are presented as intelligent, strong presences, every bit the survivalist equals of their men. (Violence, brief nudity.)
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- Released: 1987
- Rating: NR
- Review: Nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign-Language film in 1987, PATHFINDER provides a rousingly old-fashioned good time. Norwegian director Nils Gaup has a real talent for straightforward, soul-stirring action, a gift that has already landed him employment a… (more)