Review: Directed by: Manuel von Stürler | 90 minutes | documentary In order to fully achieve their role, some actors apply the so-called “method acting” technique. They look for emotions and experiences from their own lives and use them to put themselves in the shoes of their character. In preparation for his documentary about the lives of two herders, the Franco-Swiss director Manuel Von Stürler did what you could call “method directing”. Von Stürler, who became fascinated with the shepherds during a trip, followed two of them for four years and participated in a complete transhumance (moving cattle with the changing of the seasons). In “Winter Nomads,” the director follows two sympathetic shepherds, the dyed-in-the-wool Pascal, who has been practicing the trade for thirty-three years in winter, and Carole, a young woman who has a few things to learn. Accompanied by three donkeys, three sheepdogs, a puppy and no less than eight hundred (!) Sheep, they travel for four months through all kinds of weather from Switzerland to France, with the aim of bringing their sheep – intended for consumption – as fed as possible across the border. . To achieve this, Pascal and Carole travel six hundred kilometers on foot. In the ninety minutes that the documentary lasts, we see the landscape slowly but surely becoming greener and the herd of sheep smaller. The sight of the Nomadic duo is one that takes you straight back in time a few hundred (or say a thousand!) Years. Pascal and Carole wear traditional clothes, make tea on a campfire, sleep under a canvas cloth and cover themselves with animal skin. Only the single car that has to give way to the herd betrays that it really is the 21st century that we are looking at (and let’s face it, Pascal’s cell phone, which the director probably only deliberately showed in the picture towards the end of the ninety minutes). “Winter Nomads” is a romanticized look at a world from a bygone era. The consequences of the ever-increasing urbanization on the shepherding profession become clear in the documentary in a simple manner. One year later, a former grassland suddenly became a residential area and the two have to adjust their route. The award-winning documentary has been cleverly edited. Von Stürler is adept at the art of omission. We learn more about the two, especially during the meetings with curious hikers and the reunion with old acquaintances who pass the Pascal and Carole on their annual route. The stylized cinematography of “Winter Nomads” is an interesting contrast to the no-nonsense attitude of its protagonists and is a visual piece of craftsmanship: it is clear that Von Stürler once started as a photographer. Carole’s red cap stands out beautifully against the snowy landscape, as does the huge flock of sheep. As a surprised passer-by remarks: “I find this contrast of light and shade pretty. In this white area, which is like an A4 sheet. With the dog in the foreground. ” “Winter Nomads” is a sober documentary with beautiful images and a nostalgic approach, which, especially when spoken, sometimes feels like a feature film.
Directed by: Hlynur Palmason | 94 minutes | drama | Actors: Elliott Crosset Hove, Simon Sears, Victoria Carmen Sonne, Lars Mikkelsen, Peter Plaugborg, Michael Brostrup, Anders Hove, Laurits Honoré Rønne, Jannik Jensen, Christopher Lillman, Frédéric André, Mikkel Frederiksen, Stefan Mølholt, Birgit Thøt Jensen
Darkness. The camera moves gently towards a hint of movement in the distance. The stuffy background noise gradually ends in a wild roar. Barely perceptible lights, like fireflies in a vacuum, become bright beacons. The cascade of sound is drowned out with great difficulty by human screams. The claustrophobic space where the viewer is located turns out to be a mine shaft.
The lamps on the helmets of the miners present are the only light source in the tunnel. Water is scarce, the heat unbearable. The tough underground life is further made palpable by the use of a handheld camera, by enabling the viewer to experience the same lack of freedom of movement as the workers. The oppressive atmosphere effectively feels like confinement.
The mine, part of a limestone quarry, is the daily work setting of the brothers Emil (Elliott Crosset Hove) and Johan (Simon Sears). They would like to escape the hard life underground, but the mine is the only place where they are welcome. Life above ground is not much better, thanks in part to the incessant icy winter landscape. The brothers don’t have friends. They like the same girl, but she doesn’t like them. They earn a little extra by selling self-distilled alcohol to their colleagues, but that hobby is not without danger. Not only are the self-brews illegal, the risk of poisoning is also significant. As if the appalling living conditions weren’t enough, a military rifle also appears on the scene.
The above suggests a heavy drama. However, the Danish-Icelandic “Winter Brothers” is more layered. With their subtle, but also somewhat acerbic humor, the brothers make life bearable (and only add to the sense of madness for the spectator). The delightful visualization – then playful, then tight again – gives the film a bit of lightness. The two brothers are not big words. The film has little dialogue anyway, the mines are too noisy for that. Their state of mind therefore mainly remains subcutaneous, which results in more subtlety. Because “Winter Brothers” sometimes works almost in a documentary way, without emotional tricks, the film leaves the interpretation to the viewer. Although this does cause some perspective problems, it stands in the way of excessive seriousness. What remains is a pleasantly absurd tone, with only a slightly bitter undertone. Life is tough, not life any more difficult.