Village at the End of the World
R2 - United Kingdom - Dogwoof
Review written by and copyright: Samuel Scott (16th June 2013).
The Film

***This is a technical review only. For reviews on the movie from various critics, we recommend visiting HERE.***

Lars is the only teenager in town who, in a community of hunters, doesn't want to hunt. Niaqornat in North West Greenland has a population of only 59. With no local industry, people are being forced to leave to find jobs in the nearest town. Whilst the rest of the community pulls together to try and re-open the fish-factory, Lars begins to plan his escape.

Like all villages, Niaqornat has its supporters and detractors amongst the local populace. For some it's paradise; they can't imagine living anywhere else. For others, it's the last place on earth they want to be. For most Niaqornat is simply home. We know that there are very real pressures on a place like this the ice is melting, the government no longer wants to subsidise the supply ship that brings the food that can't be hunted locally, and people are leaving due to the lack of work. Village At The End Of The World is a film that reflects the dilemmas of most small communities all over the world, this one just happens to be in one of the remotest spots on earth.

Video

Independent British distributor Dogwoof releases "Village at the End of the Wood" onto dvd for its worldwide home entertainment debut at an aspect ratio of 1.75:1 which has been anamorphically enhanced. On the whole, it's a decent transfer though not completely unproblematic.

The main problem, is that there is some noticeable aliasing and edge enhancement during distant shots and when the camera pans. It does calm down during close-ups and interviews and is likely unnoticeable to those who don't look for these things, but it was a minor annoyance for me. The other problem is the way the transfer deals with the whites. At times, the whites smooth into one object, so anything that is white in the background disappears a little whenever the camera scans the snow heavy locations. Detail isn't always lost in the snow, as you can see footprints and the like to a reasonable degree of detail. Again, the problem appears to be restricted to distant/panning shots.

Now onto the good! When the panning shots take place when there is hardly any snow around, it really shows off the stunning cinematography by co-director David Katznelson. The differing greens of the hills surrounding the village of Niaqornat look lush, and the various animals in the documentary (usually dead after being hunted) have surpringly sharp detail. Overall, the transfer might not look astonishing, but this was shot in an extremely remote village on a low budget, not on some Hollywood backlot. It's a commendable effort, even if it won't set the world alight.

Audio

There are two audio tracks included on the disc, both of which I believe are Kalaallisut:
- Kalaallisut Dolby Digital 5.1
- Kalaallisut Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Now when I say I believe this to be the language, it is simply because I'm not 100% sure. My player incorrectly identifies both tracks as being English, as does PowerDVD, whilst imdb lists Native American Indian, and other sites related to the documentary list various Inuit languages and Greenlandic. After spending far too long trying to figure the language out via google, I found a site about Greenland which states that the people of Niaqornat speak Kalaallisut, one of the local Inuit dialects. Despite this, it is fleetingly mentioned as Greenlandic in the interview found in the extras, but I remain unsure.

For my viewing I opted for the 5.1 track, which, bar the occasional blast of the score by Jonas Colstrup and Max de Wardiner, was very much a stereo track itself. No biggie though, as that is generally par for the course when it comes to documentaries. Dialogue is generally clear, but there was the occasional line that seemed slightly mumbled, though unless you speak Kalaallisut (?), I guess that doesn't really matter too much in the grand scheme of things. There were no dropouts or scratches and background hiss is minimal.

Subtitles are available in Danish, English, French, Italian and Spanish.

Extras

First extra on the disc is an interview with directors Sarah Gavron and David Katznelson which lasts 15:04. It covers the majority of the basics, and both Gavron and Katznelson are informative, clear and concise participants. They are all quite straightforward questions, though it is interesting to hear about the difficulties of getting to the village and how the language barrier also made things hard.

We then have a selection of deleted scenes:
- "Ice Fishing" (1:50)
- "First Day at School" (3:38)
- "Icebergs" (2:30)
- "Polar Bear Counting" (3:36)
- "The Tupi-Lighter" (1:27)
These deleted scenes wouldn't have looked out of place if they had been kept in the movie, though I can certainly see why they been edited out of the end product for pacing. The most interesting of the scenes is "Polar Bear Counting".

The final substantial extra is Sarah Gavron's short film "The Girl in the Lay-By", which was made on a budget of 38000 in 2000 and runs for 9:38. It's quite an average short, though you can see Gavron has the skills required for film production in the way the shots here were set up and also how they were edited. It's no surprise she eventually went on to film the excellent 2007 feature "Brick Lane".

We finish the extras off with a theatrical trailer (2:38).

Overall

"Village at the End of the World" is an often fascinating documentary about the struggle of life in a small remote village. I do think it would've benefited from some narration, but I look forward to Gavron's next project - an as yet untitled film about the suffragettes, being made in conjunction with Film4.

For additional information, I thoroughly recommend visiting the official web page HERE.

The Film: B Video: C+ Audio: B- Extras: C+ Overall: B-

 


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