Thursday, November 07, 2013

Kalde spor / Cold Tracks (2013 digital restoration by Nasjonalbiblioteket in 2K DCP)

Kalde spor / [Cold Tracks]. NO 1962. D: Arne Skouen. C: Toralv Maurstad, Henny Moan, Alf Malland. 96 min. A digital restoration (Nasjonalbiblioteket 2013) screened in 2K DCP with English subtitles. Viewed at Tancred, Cinemateket, Filmens Hus, Oslo, 7 Nov 2013

Introduced by Erlend Jonassen who told us about the centenary of Arne Skouen, regarded by many as the finest Norwegian film director. There is this retrospective screened in Oslo and all around Norway, and an Arne Skouen dvd box set (complete save one comedy which Skouen did not find worthy). Skouen started with neorealism (Gategutter / Street Kids), proceeded to realism, and went on into modernism especially in his 1960 trilogy of psychically disturbed children. In Cold Tracks he had a drive to a bolder form. War is just a background. It is a vision of high mountains, bad weather and a lot of snow. (My summary of Erlend Jonassen's introduction).

NFI website (rough translation by me): "War winter 1944. Oddmund is in a cabin on a snowbound plateau together with a convoy of twelve refugees whom he is determined to guide to the coast where a boat is waiting. The weather is fine and the convoy is pressed for time but Oddmund is hesitant to proceed. He is waiting for his girlfriend Ragnhild. The plan is for him and Ragnhild to flee together with the others. When Ragnhild finally reaches the cabin a storm has broken but the convoy needs to proceed anyway. Ragnhild is not able to withstand the storm, and Oddmund has to take her back. On their way they meet Tormod, a friend who has followed them because he is worried about Ragnhild. Tormod takes up the task of escorting Ragnhild home. Oddmund can now go on with the convoy but he hesitates - he is afraid of losing Ragnhild to Tormod whom he has reason to believe a rival. Due to the hesitation he never finds the convoy again. First in the spring twelve corpses emerge from the snow, and after the war a memorial is erected on the spot. Only three people know the truth about the twelve. One of them, Oddmund, leaves the country."

"Fifteen years later he's back trying to liberate himself from the guilt which has tormented him ever since. To make sense of the guilt issue and to make a final settlement with the past he seeks Ragnhild, Tormod and the fjells in the hope that the last pieces of truth will fall onto place."

"Skouen wrote the screenplay for this taut drama together with Johan Borgen. Sønstevold's musical contributions are finely tuned to the cinematographer Sørensen's magnificent black and white vision of the Norwegian fjellscape  in its drastically changing manifestations. The framework is specifically Norwegian but thanks to its universal perspective the film also attracted attention abroad. An excited Tom Milne hailed Kalde spor in Sight and Sound as 'an outstanding study in the obsession of guilt'" (NFI website, rough translation by me)

AA: A stark winter drama where the battle with the elements is also an expression of the battle with the past.

This outdoors film about the fight for survival against snowstorms in the mountains is essentially a psychological film about inner torments.

The sound and the music are inspired by stylized sounds of the wind and the storm.

The narrative of Kalde spor starts today, and in flashbacks we learn little by little what happened in 1944 when the twelve refugees perished in the snowstorm. There are moments where the story feels a bit repetitive.

Visually, Kalde spor is magnificent, striking, and thrilling. Well shot, well lit, well composed. The stunning visuals are always functional, expressive of the theme and the subject of the movie. Kalde spor belongs to the soulscape tradition of the cinema established by Perret, Griffith, early Westerns, and Sjöström and Stiller.

I like Kalde spor very much, and even more I liked Arne Skouen's Ni liv / Nine Lives screened in Bologna's Il Cinema Ritrovato this year. The battle with the elements is the common denominator for the two films which are however otherwise completely different.

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