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Round of Change

[whitespace] Lovers of the Arctic Circle
Circle of More Than Friends: Teens Ana and Otto embark on a lifelong romance.

Arctic lovers converge in director Julio Medem's spiral of coincidence

By Heather Zimmerman

COINCIDENCES ABOUND in Spanish writer/director Julio Medem's Lovers of the Arctic Circle, but they overlap so naturally that the central theme itself at times seems like a chance discovery: that we can be as much the makers of our fate as we are simultaneously its pawns. Medem's tale of love and destiny is a gorgeous cosmic fantasy; everything ripples outward and circles back on itself, from the palindromes of the titular lovers' names (Otto and Ana) to the cyclical nature of the film's events to a reunion planned in a Finnish town on the Arctic Circle. Over the course of 17 years, the film follows the blossoming love between Otto and Ana and the events that brought them together.

Otto and Ana are thrown together as children, under circumstances that are highly coincidental but sparked by their own seemingly insignificant actions. Soon after their first meeting, in which Otto becomes instantly smitten and Ana believes Otto is the messenger of her recently deceased father, the two youngsters become adopted siblings when Ana's mother and Otto's father--introduced inadvertently by the actions of their children--move in together. Instances of coincidence swirl around this haphazard family throughout the film. As Otto and Ana grow up together, their relationship also matures, but not in the familial way that their parents encourage. As teenagers, the pair playfully plunges into what becomes an intense, enduring love affair.

Told in "chapters" that are narrated from either Otto's or Ana's points of view, the film can seem disjointed at first, especially as it flashes between the two narrations. But as the film progresses, Medem brings satisfying clarity to events that came across as non sequiturs in earlier "chapters," and the narrative switches become enlightening and sometimes amusing as we see the same stories told from two perspectives. As the grown Otto and Ana, Fele Martinez and Najwa Nimri make an appealing and passionate match, tapping into an underlying spiritual--sometimes almost psychic--sensibility through which Medem explores the question of whether we can transcend destiny or are merely tools of it--or if, in an ever-growing circle of events, there is no difference between the two.

Lovers of the Arctic Circle (R; 112 min.), written and directed by Julio Medem, photographed by Kalo F. Berridi and starring Fele Martinez, Najwa Nimri and Nancho Novo, opens Friday at the Los Gatos Cinema in Los Gatos and the Park in Menlo Park.

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From the May 6-12, 1999 issue of Metro.

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