“Spring is coming earlier and earlier each year.”
A vast icy field somewhere in Siberia reveals itself to the viewers’ eyes, with only the faint line of the horizon marking a border, a change somehow in this landscape before the white is disturbed by a small figure and a sleigh. Making his way towards a yet unknown destination somewhere ahead of him is Nanook (Mikhail Aprosimov), a man who lives in this region with his wife Sedna (Feodosia Ivanova). He is looking for food, for some prey caught up in the traps he has laid the day before, and finally to dig a hole in the ground to catch some fish.
Even though “Ága” is supposed to be set in our time and age, the way of life Sedna and Nanook live is archaic, to the point you might think you have entered a time machine. Only a few interventions from the outside – a visit from their son, the discussion about people moving into the city – disrupt the image of an era so long ago we can hardly remember it. The European title “Nanook” might refer to the influential documentary of the same title by Robert J. Flaherty, a document on the life of the Inuit. Indeed Lazarov and Kaloyan Bozhilov, his cinematographer, attempt to capture the life of these people, to give an insight into a way of life which is never questioned openly except maybe for the doubting eyes of their son.
After all, this is a slow life whose future is threatened. Nanook’s announcement about the strange change of seasons and how he sees fewer animals in the wilderness are the first messengers of a transformation much greater. Considering their age, Lazarov leaves no doubt about their ultimate faith, but shows them as two who cannot think of a different way to live. Ivanova and Aprosimov play a couple whose affection for the other person has not changed, has lasted in the icy winds and temperatures as they warm each other by the fire. Their life is in a way a form of resistance, against forgetting how we once were, how the land once was, but at the same time a confirmation that with their end, there is no coming back to how things were.
In the end, “Ága” is a film about family and memory, a story whose slow pace mimics the kind of life portrayed in the film. Lazarov has managed to create a reminder for ourselves, a look back to how we are and what we lose if we forget about people like Nanook and Sedna. Because, their demise is perhaps not caused by perpetuated by our actions.