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North of the Sun

DirectorJørn Nyseth Ranum & Inge Wegge
Producer Filmhuset Produksjoner AS, Anne Bergseng
Reviewed byEd Douglas
DateMonday, 25 February 2013
Rating 4.5 out of 5



Anyone who thinks that a life of adventure can’t become just another variation on the rat race needs to spend time at a film festival. Producers, directors and celebrity thrill-seekers spin yarns and hustle their latest offering so the whole enterprise can keep going, much like any other business.
They track carefully what the market wants and start making films they think their public want to see, rather than thinking too deeply about what they want to say. It’s why film festivals can end up feeling like a repeat of last year’s and a prediction of the next.
So watching North of the Sun felt doubly like a breath of fresh air to me, partly because it’s such a charming film, but also because its underlying message is so appealing. Already a hit at surfing festivals, it tells the story of Inge Wegge and Jørn Ranum and their nine-month sojourn on an unidentified beach on an island in Arctic Norway.
Here they spend the winter months surfing what I understand are fairly middling beach breaks, filming each other and trying to keep warm. First, however, they show the kinds of skills that seem typical of your average Norwegian and build a cosy little beach hut from the detritus they find on the beach, properly insulated against the winter cold with discarded plastic bottles and kept warm by a stove fabricated from a washed-up oil drum.
This alone qualifies them for some kind of sustainable housing award.
Apparently, in Norway, if food in a supermarket is past its sell-by date, then the shop has to give it to you, and the two lads take full advantage of this while stocking up for their winter migration. They knock off for Christmas and go home to their families, and they can get cell-phone coverage from the top of a nearby mountain, but otherwise they’re on their own with their thoughts.
The film is reflective without ever dragging, and although its themes are weighty – consumerism, the purpose of life, environmental degradation – it is never serious. Inge Wegge in particular seems enchanted with life, often laughing at setbacks and difficulties, and both men seem creatively engaged with their chosen environment and that makes you proud to be human.
It's also beautifully shot, with stunning sequences of the Norwegian coast lit by the aurora borealis and Scandi noir sequences of surfing in twilight waters full of menace and nature's most sombre grandeur.
The film is already a cult classic among surfers, but North of the Sun’s appeal is much broader than that. Anyone with a passion for wild places and an interest in the impacts we have on the planet will love it. And anyone who wants a fresh take on what our lives can be will find it an inspiration.


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