Nanook of the North
Robert Flaherty, France / Etats-Unis, 1922
Eskimos are a nomadic people who live in a permanently snow covered and frozen landscape. They struggle with a climate that is unforgiving and ignorant of the needs of human survival, ravaged by the depths of the polar cold. Against this background they struggle and strive to produce food, by hunting and fishing, and to protect themselves. Flaherty films Nanook and his wife building an igloo for the whole family to shelter in for the night. The only building material available to them is the snow, which you can almost hear squealing as it is shaped with the knife. This sequence shows Nanook’s particular architectural genius, him being the recipient of ancient knowledge and skills. Surviving in such a climate defines every single movement and gesture that an Eskimo makes. Children’s play subtly offers up a training ground for the skills that they’ll need to develop to survive, where one has to, at all costs, be adaptable to this frozen universe and its hostile climactic landscape.