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copyright ©1999-2005

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flick pick | Lovers of the Arctic Circle [Los Amantes del Círculo Polar] 1998
Directed + written by: Julio Medem
Starring: Najwa Nimri, Fele Martínez, Nancho Novo, Maru Valdivielso
Language: Spanish [with English subtitles]
Look for it at the video store under: foreign [Spain], drama
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: artsy-fartsy, lovey, mind-bending
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis From the moment they first meet as kids, Otto and Ana seem to be linked by fate. Otto's running just outside of the schoolyard in pursuit of an escaped ball when he trips and falls -- and finds himself at the feet of Ana, who's escaped to the woods after getting the news of her father's death. The two kids don't say anything, just stare, each aware that there's something special about the other. For Otto, it's love at first sight. Ana, meanwhile, thinks she sees her dad in Otto's eyes. Chance encounters and strange coincidences continue to bring Otto and Ana in and out of each other's lives. Otto's recently divorced dad and Ana's widow mother meet while picking up their children from school one day, and the two start dating. When the parents eventually get married, Otto and Ana find themselves brother and sister. Though Otto continues to live with his mother, who's never quite recovered from her marriage's failure, he finds himself wanting to spend more and more time at his dad's, with Ana, whom he steadfastly continues to adore. Ana, meanwhile, learns to let go of her dad and appreciate Otto for himself; the two adolescents are soon sneaking into each other's bedrooms, unbeknownst to their parents, who have no clue that their children were really the ones destined to fall in love, and that in many ways, their relationship accidentally got in the way. Tragedy soon separates Otto and Ana, and as adults, they go off on their separate paths. The formers lovers gradually losing track of each other after their parents' relationship ends in divorce. But coincidence, destiny, luck, whatever, eventually brings them together again, in a remote town far, far north, straddling the Arctic Circle.

Review As Otto points out early in their relationship, both he and Ana have names that are palindromes: read either name forward or backwards and it's still the same. What goes around comes around, the beginning becomes the end becomes the beginning -- and as it turns out, this circularity describes more than just their first names, but their lives as well, which loop around each other, intersecting and diverging and meeting up again, their love the great big infinite circle that binds everything together. Writer-director Julio Medem's Lovers of the Arctic Circle is an elegant, intriguing little movie, with a very stylish look and a cool structure that guides us from one lover's perspective to another, through three distinct stages of the characters' lives. It's meticulously, beautifully constructed: for a movie that's so obsessed with the idea of fate, there's very little about the way the story's told that's left to chance. This is one of those movies where every tiny detail seems very carefully and lovingly controlled; it's chock full of symbols and visual metaphors. This, of course, makes it a lot of fun for those who like to analyze their movies to death, and potentially a little contrived for anyone who prefers their movies more straightforward and naturalistic. Rent it when you're in the right frame of mind for watching patiently and carefully, so you can let all the small, quiet circles of each event in Lovers of the Arctic Circle wash over you, building up on their own, slow time. —reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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