Arctic Void



Main Cast: Michael Weaver, Tim Griffin

Director: Darren Mann

Script rewrites continue on Tiger Queen, my new musical adaptation of the story of Joe Exotic and Carol Baskin. I have managed to attain the services of a couple of very fine novelists who are busy punching up the script, making it a sharp and incisive look at the down side of the American Dream as seen through the wide eyed innocence of a young naïve girl with flowers in her hair and a dream of rescuing big cats and giving them the sanctuary they so richly deserve. Mr. Curtis and Mr. David have been working tirelessly at their laptops the last two weeks and the scenes they are writing are poetry, sheer poetry that will be certain to send me well on my way to a second Oscar. I’ve always thought my current one looks a little lonely on the mantlepiece and is sadly in need of a twin to enliven his life.

Too understated, but it’s a start!

Curtis and David have been restructuring the material, using a flashback framework – a device which I will communicate to the film audience through interpretive dance. There’s just too much emotion bound up in the conflict between Carol and Joe Exotic to leave it with just music. We need to take that next bold step. I’m envisioning a Floridian tropical garden, cages of wild beasts and me flitting through the sultry evening air in a costume of gossamer streamers – magenta with cornflower blue and daffodil yellow blossoms peeping out through the folds, not to mention a head dress with a veritable florist’s shop and a cunning Virginia creeper hugging a morning glory vine all the way down the back of my neck and over my shoulders. The effect will be such that I should be able to start a new fashion trend. Memo to self: Check with the VickiWear plant about making a whole line available at Pic n Save in time for summer.

As the days are growing a bit longer and I’m looking at tropical garden set mock-ups, I decided I needed a quick bit of escapism into the world of film. I therefore sat down in the home theater, noodled through the streaming services, and eventually found a film that I thought might bring the temperature down a bit, Arctic Void, a small indie film from 2022 filmed on the Svalbard archipelago in the high arctic. I had never heard of it before and had no idea that a film had actually been made in Svalbard. So I decided to give it a whirl, but not before pouring myself a large delicious iced Irish coffee. I wasn’t sure what to expect and ended up liking the film quite a lot until the whole thing fell apart in the third act due to lazy writing and a non-ending.

Arctic Void concerns a three man team who run around the planet filming exotic landscapes for an adventure travel docuseries. The three are Ray (Michael Weaver), the on camera talent and host/guide, Alan (Tim Griffin) the off camera producer and general dog’s body who’s supposed to make it all work, and Sean (Justin Huen), the cameraman. Sean is a new addition as their usual cameraman was unable to make the trek and he was hired as a last minute replacement. Sean, of course, doesn’t fit in and seems to be on edge and has a nervous proprietary edge towards his equipment, especially a recording of what appears to be whale song.

The three men are booked on a boat tour of the Svalbard islands under the guidance of Jim (Rune Temte) a sort of Viking failed stand up comedian along with a dozen other European adventure ecotourists. Shortly after setting out, they witness some strange behavior by the wild animals they encounter. Then, suddenly, all of the others on the boat vanish inexplicably. The three manage to get to shore in a dinghy and find that the town they land in is also completely devoid of people and power. Or is it? Trapped in a ghost town in a freezing environment and with odd physical symptoms beginning, the men begin to deteriorate into paranoia as they try to work out just what’s going on.

Arctic Void was written and directed by Darren Mann. (Two other writers are credited but it has the stamp of being a one man show). It holds the distinction of being the northernmost narrative film ever made. Mann obviously loves the arctic as his shots of water and ice and mountains are gorgeous. (Cinematography by David Rush Morrison). Other than a few establishing scenes on the boat, the film is limited to the central trio and Mann finds ways to visually establish the frailty of humans in such an unforgiving environment and allows nature to stand in for the dark forces manipulating events.

However, Mann the director should have fired Mann the writer. There’s not much wrong with the dialogue although it gets a bit cornball cheesy at times and the patter assigned to the good natured boat guide Jim is mildly annoying but structurally sound. The central mystery is engrossing. We learn about it as the characters do, putting the pieces together. When it is explained, it’s a bit farfetched, but kept mysterious enough for us to suspend disbelief. Then the film collapses in a heap with no resolution and no satisfying explanations leaving me, as an audience member, frustrated and angry.

There’s enough good (performances, the spectacular landscape, the way in which decaying Soviet era decorative style is used to heighten tension and fear) to outweigh the bad but when Arctic Void approaches its final fifteen minutes, you might want to start folding the laundry or something so that you don’t pay too close attention.

Cannibal walrus. Flirtatious Germans. Empty swimming pool. Gratuitous dying deer. Floating camera bag. Fully stocked bar. Hot soup. Ominous birds.

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