Ofelas (1987)


(director/writer: Nils Gaup; cinematographer: Erling Thurmann-Andersen; editor: Nils Pagh Andersen; music: Kjetil Bjerkestrand/Marius Muller/Nils-Aslak Valkeapaa; cast: Mikkel Gaup (Aigin), Sara Marit Gaup (Sahve), Ingvald Guttorm (Aigin’s Father), Ellen Anne Buljo (Aigin’s Mother), Inger Utsi (Aigin’s Sister), Nils Utsi (Raste), Svein Scharffenberg (Tchude Chief), Helgi Skulason (Tchude with Scar), Sverre Porsanger (Sierge), (Mother), Anne-Marja Blind (Varia, wife of Raste); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John M. Jacobsen; Carolco Pictures Inc.; 1987-Norway-in Norse/Sami with English subtitles)
“An epic adventure set a thousand years ago in Lapland.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer/director Nils Gaup is a Laplander (Lapland is the name of a region-it’s not a country- in north Europe that belongs to Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia where the approximately 40,000 residents speak a language known as Sami).

It’s an epic adventure set a thousand years ago in Lapland that plays as a combo mythic folklore tale and modern multiplex thriller of a Star Wars-like battle between Good and Evil. The good guys are the fun-loving and non-violent Lapps and the bad guys are the ruthless black-clad warriors called the Tchudes. A raiding party of between 10 to 15 Tchudes descend on the campsite of a peaceful Lapp family and using their crossbows they slay the father, mother and daughter. They dig a hole in the ice and are about to bury their vics, when the family’s 16-year-old son Aigin (Mikkel Gaup) returns from skiing and when spotted has to race away from them on one ski while they pursue on foot. While severely wounded by an arrow stuck in his shoulder, he gets to the next Lapp encampment. Here the clan’s spiritual leader, Raste, is called back from his retreat after killing a bear with mystical powers, so he can remove the arrow. It is according to legend that the victorious hunter must rest up alone for three days in the woods after taking over the bear’s might before returning to his people, so they can look him in the eye without being bowled over. Aigin is nursed back to health by teenage hottie Sahve and there’s a romance in the works. But the villagers are frightened that the kid has led the savages to them and decide to split en masse to the coast, feeling they are no match for the warriors. But Aigin wants revenge against the slayers of his parents and remains behind, only to get captured. The Tchudes force him to be their pathfinder, after killing the real pathfinder who volunteered to stay behind and help the boy, and lead them to the villagers. But the kid has a trick up his sleave and leads the baddies through a treacherous mountain pass where he might have to sacrifice his life to save the villagers from the Tchudes. The suspenseful cliffhanger scene has a Bond-like look because it was arranged by those same stuntmen who do that sort of stuff for the Bond films.

Shot on location in the tundra of northern Norway, there’s a stunning beauty in the barren snowy landscape. Even though the acting is only so-so and the narrative is too child-like in its simplicity to be much more than a coming-of-age tale, the film remains entertaining and its spareness for the most part works.

It was nominated for a best foreign picture Oscar in 1987 (the first Lapp feature honored with this award). The Tchudes were played by Norwegians, while the Lapps played themselves. It also had a bouncy New Age soundtrack composed by Kjetil Bjerkestrand, Marius Muller and Nils-Aslak Valkeapaa that was fun but seemed out of place.