Sometimes the simplest of films can have the biggest impact.
Not every movie needs big explosions, incredible superpowers or horrifying monsters to provide a truly phenomenal experience. All that’s needed is an intriguing story, interesting characters and something to make the audience care about what they’re watching.
“Ága” checks all three of those boxes.
The story of this film is pretty basic. It follows an elderly couple, Nanook and Sedna, that lives alone in the snowy and barren wilderness of the Arctic. In their small yurt with their dog, they live off whatever food they can find for themselves, by fishing or hunting. They weather winter storms together, they endure the relentless isolation of the North together and they do pretty much everything they need to survive together.
Nanook and Sedna have two children, Chena and Ága, but they’ve both gone off to join the modern world. Chena still comes home to check on his parents from time to time, but they haven’t seen Ága in years.
Though “Ága” is a simple film, it’s an incredibly beautiful one to watch.
The cinematography by Kaloyan Bozhilov is stunning. Every single shot has such care put into it, and every frame is just as gorgeous as the last. Whether it be a close-up shot of Nanook’s cold and weathered face or an extreme wide shot that highlights just how infinitely small this couple is in comparison to the vast arctic wilderness, there is always something new to be awestruck by.
The simple beauty of the cinematography is also mirrored in the story of the film.
Most of this film is simply Nanook and Sedna going about their daily lives. They hunt, they cook, they set traps, they fish, they talk and they occasionally sing. Because there isn’t a lot that happens in this movie, there are a lot of people out there that will probably find this movie boring. I might have even been bored for a bit here and there. But all of these scenes are crucial because they develop these characters and their lifestyle.
It’s important to develop this concept of what Nanook and Sedna's lives are because of what the film eventually becomes — an absolutely fantastic juxtaposition of traditional versus modern life.
Over the course of the film, the couple has several run-ins with the modern world. Some are small, like seeing a plane or two fly overhead, but others are bigger, like being gifted a radio by their visiting son. It’s in these moments that “Ága” showcases its intended purpose — to inform modern audiences about an increasingly rare lifestyle.
Director Milko Lazarov chose to tell viewers about this simple style of life, not through telling them about it, but by showing them. This becomes increasingly apparent as the film continues, until it eventually builds to an incredibly emotional conclusion where I may have shed a tear or two.
“Ága” may not be the most exciting film in the world, but it’s one that brilliantly showcases exactly how filmmaking can be more than just people punching each other in slow motion. This is the kind of film that earns the title of “a work of art.” It’s a stirringly beautiful look at how society has moved past the quiet, simple days of living solely off of what the land provides. It’s not a movie that everyone will be rushing out to see, but it’s one that I would highly encourage anyone to give a chance.