Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
This unusual and wintry film received the Grand Prize at the Moscow International Film Festival in 1991 and was considered artistically important by many critics. However, not all of them were of the same opinion, and the Variety reviewer for the movie trade attacked it with particularly sustained, passionate invective. The movie takes place among the Nyvkh people, an indigenous tribal group that lives on the far northern Arctic islands of Japan. Scenes from life in one of their settlements indicate that their lives are physically strenuous, and that they have an unusual relationship with nature. After some initial scenes, the story follows a family elder as he asks permission from a tree to cut it down and make a canoe with it. Eventually it is made, and three generations of Nyvkh men take it onto the ocean for a fishing expedition. A fog rolls in, and the three grown men and one child are stranded on the ocean without any sense of where they are. Each of the men, beginning with the oldest, debates with himself whether his continued survival will benefit anyone, and when he senses that the answer is "no," slips into the sea, until only the youngest is left. He is a little boy just past the age of being a toddler, and the boat, seemingly by chance, bumps into shore with him in it.
boy, canoe, fishing, Japan, suicide, meaning-of-life