Film ‘Arctic’ Shot on an Icelandic Glacier

Mads Mikkelsen as Overgård, trekking across an Icelandic glacier (Source: Armory Films).

The endless expanse of white snow atop a glacier, framed by Icelandic mountains, served as the set for the new movie “Arctic,” which premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival in France. The film, a solo-survival thriller shot in 2017, is director and screenwriter Joe Penna’s feature film debut.

The only survivor of a plane crash in the highlands of Iceland, researcher and explorer Overgård must brave the frigid environment during his decision to either stay with the relative safety of the plane wreckage or venture into the unknown in search of help.

“Arctic” is the man versus nature genre in its purest form, with the story and imagery speaking in place of the film’s lack of dialogue. Mads Mikkelsen, who portrays Overgård, told Variety that the landscape “is the main character in many ways.”

The environment is more than just visually striking, as its physical challenges are not an easy hurdle. About 11 percent of Iceland is covered by glaciers, and the winter temperatures average around 14 degrees Fahrenheit but can drop well into the negatives. This climate, paired with sustained high winds made for a difficult shoot, but an intense portrayal.

Mads Mikkelsen (left) and Joe Penna (right) on the set of “Arctic” (Source: Armory Films).

Despite these challenges, Penna maintains that “the tundra is the precise place where ‘Arctic’ was to be shot— the harshest environment on Earth.”

The juxtaposition of a solitary human against the vastness of the Arctic allows the courage and determination of Overgård to shine through.

“Nothing represents as much the fragility of a human as the sight of a simple silhouette crossing an endless sea of snow,” he states. This scene, shot from above, specifically proved difficult when shooting in a snow-covered landscape. “With virgin snow everywhere you look, it was difficult to manage the sets so that they do not look like a construction site where 30 people came and went,” stated director of photography Tómas Örn Tómasson.

With winds 30 to 40 knots throughout the 20-day winter shoot, continuity was difficult with the weather in Iceland’s highlands, where the largest ice caps are located.

“Throughout the filming, weather conditions changed every hour, destroying the continuity of our catch,” said Penna in an interview.

The film, with a 97-minute run-time, was a “Golden Camera” nominee at Cannes. It claimed one of the midnight showings where it received an extended standing ovation. Reviews overall have been favorable. It received a 7.3 out of 10 on IMDB and a 100 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes by critics.

Director Joe Penna on the set of “Arctic” (Source: Armory Films).

The film will be released in the United States in 2019 by studio Bleeker Street where a wider audience will have the chance to witness the frozen, glacial world of “Arctic.”

Penna encourages the audience to “admire our main character’s silent performance,” which allows them to “take something different away from the film than the person sitting next to [them] in the theatre.”

Glaciers are an excellent way to achieve this effect, and filmmakers have taken notice of glacial settings for many years. Glaciers are able to stimulate the imagination of all those involved by providing a truly unique and striking environment sure to capture the attention of the audience.

Check out the first clip from the film below!

 

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Roundup: Mt. Everest Climbing, Glacier Movie, and Plants

Everest Climbing Route at Risk from Climate Change

From The Washington Post: “As climbers begin to reach the summit of Mount Everest, some veterans are avoiding the Nepali side of the world’s highest peak because melting ice and crowds have made its famed Khumbu Icefall too dangerous… Several veteran climbers and well-respected Western climbing companies have moved their expeditions to the northern side of the mountain in Tibet in recent years, saying rising temperatures and inexperienced climbers have made the icefall more vulnerable. Research by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development shows that the Khumbu glacier is retreating at an average of 65 feet per year, raising the risk of avalanche.”

Read more about the climbing route here.

Photo of the Khumbu Icefall
The Khumbu Icefall from the Mt. Everest base camp (Source: Mark Horrell/Creative Commons).

 

Movie at Cannes Shot on Glacier in Iceland

From Variety: “‘Arctic,’ a notably quiet and captivating slow-build adventure film, starring Mads Mikkelsen as a researcher-explorer who has crash-landed in the frozen wilderness, is the latest example of a genre we know in our bones, one that feels so familiar it’s almost comforting. It’s another solo-survival movie, one more tale of a shipwrecked soul that derives its spirit and design from the mythic fable of the form, ‘Robinson Crusoe.’ The challenge of watching a stranded man toil away on his own, of course, is that it seems, on the surface, to be inherently undramatic. That’s why nearly every one of these movies has had a buried hook, a way of turning a barren situation into compulsively watchable and suspenseful storytelling. “Robinson Crusoe” (the novel, published in 1719, and its various film versions) set the template by presenting its tale as one of human ingenuity — in essence, it prophesied the Industrial Revolution in the form of a stripped-down one-man show. “Cast Away” had Wilson the soccer ball and Tom Hanks’ plucky enterprise. “127 Hours” had James Franco, as a hiker trapped in a rocky wedge, nattering into his video camera. “All Is Lost,” set on a sailboat adrift at sea, had Robert Redford’s finely aging regret and his character’s technical instincts. “Robinson Crusoe” had Friday.”

Read more about the movie here.

Photo of lead actor Mads Mikkelsen
Lead actor Mads Mikkelsen (Source: Total Flim/Twitter).

 

Study Examines Plants Exposed Due to Glacial Retreat

From the Journal of Plant Research: “To examine carbon allocation, nitrogen acquisition and net production in nutrient-poor conditions, we examined allocation patterns among organs of shrub Alnus fruticosa at a young 80-year-old moraine in Kamchatka… Since the leaf mass isometrically scaled to root nodule mass, growth of each individual occurred at the leaves and root nodules in a coordinated manner. It is suggested that their isometric increase contributes to the increase in net production per plant for A. fruticosa in nutrient-poor conditions.”

Read more about the study here.

Photo of The Koryto Glacier in Kamchatka and the valley below the glacier
The Koryto Glacier in Kamchatka (top) and the valley below the glacier (bottom) (Source: Takahashi et al.).
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