Far North: Notes on a Process and its Result

By Asif Kapadia

far-north-asif-kapadia.jpgFar North, 2007

One of the most imaginative filmmakers currently working, Asif Kapadia’s new authored feature is a primal tale of passion and violence set within the elemental landscapes of the North. The film plays in the London Film Festival this October and will be released next year. Asif Kapadia will be interviewed about the film and his very distinctive work to date in the next issue of Vertigo.

1. The Seal Hunt 

One of the most complex scenes in the screenplay, it was set on a sea dotted with icebergs, where the three characters are in the boat hunting a seal. High winds prevented shooting the scene as it was written on the water so at the last moment we had to change location and improvise, or risk losing the sequence.

We ended up shooting in a field of icebergs washed ashore. It was dangerous and difficult work for the crew and actors. We had to create an improvised path through the slippery ice. The tide came in as we were shooting and we were forced to retreat every few minutes. Often the actors were up to their knees in freezing water.

far-north-asif-kapadia-2.jpgFar North, 2007

2. Loki captured by soldiers

We shot on the Svalbard archipelago two hours South of the North Pole, with the cast and crew living on a Russian ice breaker. Each night the ship moved to a new location as we slept. We started shooting with permanent sun but as we were so far north, each day we lost twenty minutes of shootable light, so by the end of the schedule we were down to four hours of daylight. We were constantly up against it with time and as a result many scenes were shot in the magic hour as the sun was setting.

far-north-asif-kapadia-3.jpgFar North, 2007

3. Saiva and Anja hug

The set in our main location, a simple tent of birch logs and reindeer skins on the Temple Mountain where the majority of the story takes place

far-north-asif-kapadia-4.jpgFar North, 2007

4. Loki and Anja skating

One of my favourite images from the film, with Loki and Anja messing about and tumbling on top of each other in the snow, and the vast, flat landscape with snow capped mountains in the background and far away in the distance at the end of the fjord, the awesome blue green Tuna Glacier.

far-north-asif-kapadia-5.jpgFar North, 2007

5. Saiva watches Loki and Anja kiss

This image sums up the heart of the story, three people living together in a simple tent in the middle of nowhere. Two begin a relationship, leaving the third simmering with jealousy. The original six page short story by Sara Maitland was just that. Nothing was known about their stories and the challenge in writing the screenplay was to expand the tale to explain who they were and how they came to be there while maintaining the original dynamic of the tale.

far-north-asif-kapadia-6.jpgFar North, 2007

6. Loki runs in terror into the freezing waste

The film ends with a horrific act. In the harsh desolate beauty of the arctic, people survive on the edge and, when threatened, they may be driven to desperate actions.