Saturday 26 January 2008

Ofelas - a long time ago, in a country far far away

Ofelas or Pathfinder, to use its English title, was Norwegian writer / director Nils Gaup's 1987 beautifully filmed adaptation of an old legend set in 10th-century Lapland.

Oscar nominated for best foreign film of 1987, Ofelas tells the story of Aigin, a 16 year old Lapp, played by Gaup's son Mikkel, whose family is slaughtered by a tribe of crossbow toting, bloodthirsty black-clad bandits called the Tchude. Despite being wounded, Aigin escapes and attempts to warn another Lapp camp of the Tchude's imminent arrival. When the camp flees for the coast, Aigin decides to make a stand against the Tchude. After a failed standoff, Aigin, with the help of the Shaman-like tribal Pathfinder Raste, through bravery and cunning finally overcomes the Tchude and saves the Lapp tribe.

The expansion of the warlike Tchude can be seen as analogous with change especially to the traditional Lapp way of life. With their almost uniform black leather garb, the Tchude look different to the fur-clad Lapps; they are armed with crossbows compared to the others' longbows and they advance through acquisition by conquest. The awesome power and technology of the Tchude and their relentless expansionism is surely a sign that the idyllic life led by the Lapps as they know it is ultimately ending.

Finnish Sami poet and artist Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, (1943 - 2001) composed the majestic score for Ofelas using traditional Sami jojk styling and sweeping synthesisers which at times sounds like Icelandic musicians Sigur Ros and Vangelis. Although Valkeapää's score was nominated for an Oscar, no official soundtrack exists other than the Opening and Closing credits extracted from the DVD, unless anyone knows otherwise.

Ofelas was recently remade as Pathfinder a big budget, beards, bows and broadswords epic starring Lord of The Rings' Karl Urban where Native Americans replace Lapps and Vikings take the place of the Tchude. As slam-bang as the remake may be, it pales when compared to the relative simplicity and purity of Ofelas, which reveals as much about the Lapp lifestyle as the nature of heroes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Opening theme was also used by Mike Oldfield on album "The Songs Of Distant Earth"(1994)- track Prayer For The Earth:

Thx Crispy. Especially for excerpt from awesome Exiled soundtrack, great blog.