Angels in the Outland
Film review by: Witney Seibold
When describing the Polish Bothers’ new film “Northfork,” words like “myth,” “dream,” and “ethereal” pop up frequently. The film embodies those things. Like Wim Wenders’ “Wings of Desire,” or Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven,” “Northfork” takes place in a strange world that is at once completely recognizable, and completely odd.
Northfork, MO, 1955. The town is to be flooded. A six-man team of be-fedora-ed G-men (including James Woods, and co-writer Mark Polish) must convince the last few stubborn stragglers that they must leave. A few must exhume their dead relatives, lest they bob to the surface of the newly formed lake. Here is a man who has built an ark in preparation. There we see a raspy old crone refusing to stop serving the special of the day at the down-home diner. And, most wondrous, we see a young boy (Duel Farnes), abandoned by his adoptive parents, wandering out into the landscape, and discovering a shack occupied by four non-human beings with names like Flower Hercules (Daryl Hannah), and Cup of Tea (Robin Sachs), who are seeking angels who once roamed this part of Montana. The boy proceeds to explain that he is an angel. We don’t follow a story, so much as we exist in an imaginary plane for a short while. A plane of dreams and angels.
Does the film deserve such lofty comparisons to such wonderful films as the ones listed above? I think it does. While the pace is a little maddening, and the occasional flashbacks/interludes featuring Nick Nolte as the priest looking after our young boy are somewhat confusing, the film still has the power to take you away. It shows the world as flat and wide and containing mysteries we humans have yet to fathom. Like the landscape itself has absorbed our dreams, and is now occasionally letting bits of them back at us. It’s mournful and dark (the photography is almost completely devoid of color), yet hopeful and exhilarating and, indeed, mythic. I hope my description hasn’t made it sound bleak and dull. It’s mythic. A dirge, a meditation, a work of beauty. “Northfork” is something extraordinary.