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Northfork is the latest film from the Polish brothers, Mark and Michael, the creative duo behind the critically acclaimed, and Sundance award winning, Twin Falls Idaho (something I really have to see after viewing this!) and is exceptionally hard to define. In fact I have a feeling that trying to review this film is going to take some doing without giving too much away, but hey it's a challenge so....
The two main focuses of the film are the small town of Northfork in 1955, sitting in a valley that is about to be flooded following the creation of a new dam, and Irwin, a small boy, an orphan, who is dying in the towns church and is being looked after by the minister, Father Harlan (Nick Nolte).
We follow Walter O'Brien (James Woods) and his fellow 'relocators' of the Evacuation commitee moving, or attempting to move, the last few remaining townsfolk out of Northfork before the valley is flooded. We get to meet a bunch of people who could quite happily move in to Twin Peaks and not feel out of place! They have that Lynchian weirdness to them. There is a restaurant owner who has no menu, you only get anything if you can guess what is available, and a man who has turned his house into an ark so his house will float on the wave of water that will soon be coming.
Now this sounds bizarre enough but the story of Irwin is open to so much interpretation that it, and the characters in it, seems perfectly plausible in comparison!
It seems as if Irwin was/is/thinks he is? An angel who had his wings removed at some time or other? He meets up with four extremely unusual characters in a house in the middle if nowhere. They are looking for something or someone and know it/he/she is somewhere nearby! Even though I said the townspeople were odd but this bunch are the craziest group of characters to ever turn up in a film!!
Their names tell you a lot... Flowers Hercules (Darryl Hannah), Happy (Anthony Edwards), Cup O'Tea and Cod. Irwin meets up with them and discusses his life with them. What the four of them are actually up to, and possibly even whether or not they actually exist is something for you to interpret. Flowers seems to be floating on clouds, not really all there, Happy where glasses with numerous lenses and seems to be examining things all the time while all Cup O'Tea wants is a cup of tea and to get out of there.
As the two separate storylines start to converge will we get to have some idea of exactly what is going on? See it and you'll find out, possibly!
This is a truly beautiful film to look at; everything has been de-saturated of colour. The whole picture is filmed in muted colours, not black and white but with very little bright colouring to it. Varying shades of grey permeate everything and this works, especially when the sunlight shines in through windows. Whenever one of the four characters in the house is near a window the sun shines in creating a glow around them, adding even more mystery to the characters and the film. Is this intentional or not? I think so because it stands out so much when compared to the rest of the film, but why this is I leave it to you to decide
The soundtrack is one of those things I never normally notice, a good score is one that isn't obtrusive and doesn't really interrupt the flow of the film. A great score though is one that enhances the scene it is playing in, and adds to the overall picture. The music in Northfork is full of haunting melodies that float around in the background but insinuate themselves into your head.
Just look at the cast the Polish Brothers have bought in! Has there ever been ana ctor as under rated as James Woods? He is superb here as the man whose job it is too move people from his own town, a town where his wife is buried.
Nick Nolte puts in another sterling performance, Daryll Hannah has an otherworldy quality to her that makes deciding who or what she is even more of a puzzle.
All the cast perform well though and not one of them puts a foot wrong. Either great directing or actors in tune with their parts and the film.
I like this film, its small town feel, the surreal touches and the odd characters appeal to me, even though I think that some of the intricacies of what the under lying themes are about have escaped me completely. Northfork is a film that brings you into its world and makes you love it. It is a world where, even though disaster is looming, the pace of life still feels slow and unrushed.
There are many interpretations to this film, reading some stuff on it I find that even certain scenes seem to have many different ways of looking at them, even the director/writers say the same. I saw this last November on a big(ish) screen as part of the local film society's programme. I saw it sitting in a cold civic theatre and rickety old fold down chairs. Not the best way of trying to watch something in comfort, but I was thoroughly engrossed with this film despite this discomfort, it style and lyrical ness stood out as something a bit different from the norm. If you want to watch a film where the story makes you think and isn't full of special effects and fights then I whole-heartedly recommend this film. You might not like it as much as me but you will not see anything of its like!
Writers: Mark and Michael Polish
Director: Michael Polish
Running time: 103 minutes
James Woods - Walter O'Brien
Nick Nolte - Father Harlan
Claire Forlani - Mrs Hadfield
Duel Farnes - Irwin
Mark Polish - Willis O'Brien
Daryl Hannah - Flowers Hercules
Peter Coyote - Eddie
Robin Sachs - Cup O'Tea
Anthony Edwards - Happy
It's 1950s Montana, and the small town of Northfork is about to be buried underwater. While most of the residents are willing to accept a forced relocation to higher ground, several inhabitants are determined to stay right where they are. A six-man Evacuation Committee is recruited to convert the stragglers and make sure that no one is left behind. Meanwhile, the sombre Father Harlan (Nick Nolte) cares for the increasingly ill Irwin (Duel Farnes), a young child who has begun to have a dialogue with four mysterious angels - Flower Hercules (Darryl Hannah), Cup of Tea (Robin Sachs), Happy (Anthony Edwards), and Cod (Ben Foster). As the deadline nears, the Evacuation Committee struggles with a determined, proud group of residents who don't want to let their town be washed into history.