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Review: Ága
by Rose Finlay

Milko Lazarov, Bulgaria/Germany/France

Nanook (Mikhail Aprosimov) and his wife Sedna (Feodosia Ivanova) are reindeer farmers in the northern arctic. Their days are mostly comprised of solitary tasks, like long trips across the frozen wastes to fish and check traps. Their home is A traditional arctic yurt made of fur, and while it can be unstable in storms, it provides what they need. They are both getting older though; Nanook is becoming more forgetful, and Sedna has a wound on her side which is only getting worse by the day no matter how much she treats it with homemade ointment. Knowing she likely doesn’t have much time left, Sedna wishes to talk with her daughter Ága (Galina Tikhonova) once again. Nanook won’t hear of it. Ága left in disgrace several years before, and now works far away for a diamond mine. Still, Sedna dreams of seeing her daughter once again and Nanook must face that their time might be short.

Of all of the films at the Berlinale in 2018, Ága was perhaps the most visually beautiful. Each shot was lovingly set up, and with the dramatic backdrop of the arctic tundra, the magnificence could not be contained. Nanook and Sedna’s lives are simple and difficult. Times have changed and their way of life is dying. There is no longer a community to support them in their old age. The reindeer have long stopped making their way through the area, and everyone has left to more stable and profitable locations. Yet Nanook and Sedna remain, and the audience must watch them with their daily struggles and joys and wonder how long it can continue to last. Slow paced and more focused on visuals than story, Ága still manages to be emotionally impactful and was one of the strongest films in the Competition (Wettbewerb) section this year.