Arctic survival film, from female perspective, kicks off Berlin fest

Thu Feb 5, 2015 1:49pm EST
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By Michael Roddy

BERLIN (Reuters) - An Arctic survival movie about two women - the wife of North Pole explorer Robert Peary and a young Inuit - fighting for their lives together in a snowbound shack kicked off the 65th Berlin International Film Festival on Thursday.

"My first bear," high-society matron Josephine Peary, played by French actress Juliette Binoche, says triumphantly in the opening moments of Spanish director Isabel Coixet's "Nobody Wants the Night" as she fells a polar bear with a single shot.

Life goes rapidly downhill as the bullheaded and wealthy Peary forces Inuits and veteran Arctic hands, one of them played by Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, to take her on an ill-fated foray to find her husband, whom she rarely sees at home in Washington, in 1908 during one of his attempts to reach the North Pole.

Mrs. Peary's voyage of self-discovery in the ice and cold, in a film that says it is "inspired by real characters", includes finding out that the Inuit woman Alaka, played by Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi, has had sexual relations with her husband.

Despite that, the two bond, in a female take on a buddy movie, as they struggle to survive with no heat and only dog and seal meat to eat.

Spanish director Isabel Coixet fended off suggestions the significance of her film lay in the fact it was only the second work by a woman director to launch the prestigious Berlin film festival.

"We talk about gender...the way we talk about it is going around in circles," Catalan told a news conference. "I want more money for women, I don't want equal pay, I want more."

Although the script is the work of a male scriptwriter who Coixet pointedly said "is not gay", the film is an intimate and deeply personal look at two women forced into a relationship that results metaphorically in Mrs Peary's rebirth as someone with a greater understanding of what it is to be human.   Continued...

Members of the international jury and Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick (2nd R) arrive for the screening of the movie 'Nobody Wants the Night', during the opening gala of the 65th Berlinale International Film Festival, in Berlin February 5, 2015.  REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch