Lovers of the Arctic Circle (Los amantes del Círculo Polar, 1998)
Director Julio Medem’s epic of cyclical conceptualism isn’t an entirely satisfying concoction, building to a curiously unmoving anti-climax, but it does stand head and shoulders over lumbering Hollywood stabs at tall-storytelling, like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, in its quiescent poetry and affectingly naturalistic approach to a big fish tale. Ana and Otto are the two step-siblings whose romantic obsession with each-other becomes entangled with loops of history and cruelties of arbitrary fate. Their love affair never becomes transcendent: in fact it becomes subordinate to an inability to dominate fate, and the people around them are eaten away by loss. Medem’s set-up threatens cuteness, but his sensibility is neither too meditative nor too impressed with itself, and he backs up his sentimental, mystical inflections with grit and melancholy, and impressive observations of character and the self-consuming nature of all forms of love. His interest both in fateful repetition and fatal luck jolts his story in original and unexpected directions, using self-conscious absurdity to get at the truth in how life situations tend to repeat from generation to generation.