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The Green Life: Movie Review Friday: Into the Cold

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June 17, 2011

Movie Review Friday: Into the Cold

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week we review a film with an environmental theme. Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a short review and look for it in the next Movie Review Friday. 

Into the Cold: A Journey of the Soul (2010)

Available on DVD


The temperature dips below -40° Fahrenheit during the North Pole's winter, and the ice cap’s geography changes each season as slabs collide, divide, and melt. Despite these unforgiving conditions, Sebastian Copeland and Keith Heger trekked to the pole in 2009 to commemorate the centennial of the first successful expedition there. They captured the Arctic's vast, existential landscape in this documentary, a beautiful and inspirational exercise in simple cinematography.

The story spans the duo’s shakedown in Minnesota to the their final flight back from the Arctic. Copeland, a photographer, environmental advocate, and possessor of rugged good looks, wrote and produced the film, which earned official selection at last year's Tribeca Film Festival.

When Copeland does reach the pole, he celebrates by circling it, crossing through every time zone. But be warned: His own story revolves around a different axis: Los Angeles. The journey's intention was to raise awareness of the fragility of the warming pole — it’s predicted that the Arctic may be clear of ice within the next few summers — and the movie seems torn between demanding attention and maintaining an attractively humble character.  

Into the Cold primarily explores the individual’s journey and how far one can push oneself. Shots of the duo striking across the ice, sometimes awkwardly, often slowly, and always deliberately, consume at least a third of its length. These sequences form the densest and most satisfying content, thanks to endless blue-and-white panoramas.

Copeland asks himself before setting out, “What type of man are you to think you can succeed at this?” Afterward, he characterizes the 35-day experience: “We were hungry a lot.” But if the ice cap served as Copeland’s terrible white whale, why do Copeland and Heger only expose their mental pain in synopsis, after they’ve completed the expedition? One wishes they'd been a little more frank about the brutality of the experience.

Regardless, Into the Cold is a testimonial to the difficulty of sticking to a challenging course and the kind of strength that changing human habits requires.

Copeland’s clear, emotive aesthetic and his taste for poetic narration make this concise production well worth your time. It shows that the soul, maybe even more than the Arctic, will be the ground zero of climate change. Given that, Into the Cold is a quiet call to strengthen the planet by strengthening ourselves.

--Juliana Hanle

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