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All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride follows the path of an ancient postal route, showing the traditional world of the Sami people who are indigenous to northern Scandinavia and for whom reindeer herding remains a way of life. Filmed in Karasjok, Norway - 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle - the journey captures breath-taking scenery, normally not glimpsed by anyone other than the Sami. An epic two-hour trip capturing undulating snowy hills, birch forests and traditional Sami settlements...
This two hour film was originally broadcast last year (Christmas 2015). It's part of the BBC Four Goes Slow TV programmes which have been produced without narration or underscore. I get it. I understand what the makers of this series of documentaries (?) is trying to do, but it just doesn't work as a feature length movie - hell you'd be hard pressed to get 10 minutes out of it. This is the sort of project I'd expect to see in a nightclub on a videowall while I was slowly getting drunk listening to pounding rock. It's not the sort of visual experience I'd expect to appear on TV.
The premise is simple. Strap a camera to a reindeer's bum while it pulls a sleigh through the snow. "Look at the beautiful scenery. Isn't it magnificent? Isn't nature incredible? Isn't this a little boring? Ok, it's time to put something good on?"
Just as you're starting to drop off the camera changes and we get 10+ minutes of another angle. The problem with this is that there's no explanation of why these poor women trudge through the snow? No context to the surroundings. Are they miles from anywhere? Or is there a KFC just over the hill. This would be fine if the filmmakers were being artistic and just wanted you to go with the visual flow... but then why bother having the odd piece of information appear on the screen in the form of text designed to look like it's frozen and coming out of the snow? This information is flimsy and rather pointless. In fact, the synopsis at the top of this review (which was taken from the press release) has more useful information than the entire DVD.
The PR blurb indicated that they were reindeer herders. Well they only had three reindeer here and there was no indication that they had any more. Why did the two women meet and join up? What was the lonesome woman, that we pass, doing trekking through the snow? What tribe was the husky team they meet and what do they do? Why are these two poor women trekking through the snow for no apparently good reason. Who are the people they stop and get refreshment from - is it a Scandinavian transport cafe? And who places the fire torches at night to show where the path is? Is this path well used?
Snow is white, the clouds are white, the trees are covered in white... so there's not really that much to look at and after a while I was starting to get snow blindness.
I live on Dartmoor and the sunsets and scenery is very similar here when it snows and I have to walk five miles through the woods to get a pint of milk - and believe me the scenery is stunning. But after about 30 mins all you want to do is put your feet up in the warmth.
Yes, it's visually stunning, but a little more variety of shots and some sort of context as to what we were watching would have been incredibly welcomed. Yes, it's beautiful; yes, it's groundbreaking; and yes, it's magical... but it also gets rather boring a little too quickly.
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