Pathfinder (1987)

tn_pathfinder87PATHFINDER is a very simple Norwegian adventure movie about a kid whose village is invaded. It’s presented as a story that’s been passed down from generation to generation, and it does have that feel of a legend or a folk tale.

I’ve never seen a movie about a culture like this. They’re white people with funny beards and mustaches who wear white fur clothes and hats. They live in tents to protect them from the snow. They hunt on skis using bows and arrows (bow and arroweses?). Reindeer pull their sleds. Holy shit, this must be how Santa Claus grew up! This is like a hood movie to Santa Claus.

The Tchudes, the invaders, wear grey furs instead of white, which is helpful for distinguishing the characters from each other – I like that. They don’t look like scary badasses or anything, just grim older guys. The villagers tend to look jollier, in my opinion. The Tchudes do have a crossbow with fangs on the front of it, that’s pretty scary. Somebody says they’re as bad as wolves, which is unfair because wolves can be nice and have more than one color of fur.

mp_pathfinder87Anyway, the Tchudes come in and slaughter everybody, I guess to steal their food and stuff. I don’t think they want their hats. Whatever they’re trying to do I’m against it, and so is this kid Aigin. He happens to be out hunting when the shit goes down, so they don’t get him. They spot him and he drops one of his skis, but he’s pretty good even on one ski so he escapes to another village.

One problem: this fucking snow everywhere. It means he leaves a trail. The people in the next village are like “Great, thanks for stopping by, kid” and start packing up their shit to get the fuck out of there before company arrives. God damn Tchudes. Nobody wants to deal with ’em.

But Aigin’s thinking is wait a minute, I only ran because I’m a kid and I was by myself. You motherfuckers are adults with weapons and numbers. Don’t you want to protect your tents and your snow and shit? Let’s stay and fight like men! This is a good patch of snow you got here!

But the villagers’s thinking is uh, no.

Aigin is stubborn as well as confident in his bow and/or arrow skills, so he stays while the cowards flee. In fact, he sleeps. That’s how not scared he is. He’s willing to risk oversleeping and waking up mid-pillage.

In the morning, though, a couple of dudes show up because they changed their mind and came back to help him. It’s a great moment of manly camaraderie. And they’re not even gonna wait for the Tchudes to catch up, they’re gonna follow Aigin’s tracks backwards to find them. Fuck it. Get it over with.

The movie (called OFELAS in its original language) came out in 1987 and was nominated for the Oscar for best foreign language film (it lost to BABETTE’S FEAST, ’cause Oscar voters love feast movies). The director is named Nils Gaup, he apparently appears in the movie also and did some of the music. He later did the movie that was remade as HEAD ABOVE WATER and the Christopher Lambert movie NORTH STAR.

PATHFINDER is a nice story, to the point, not complicated. And I like seeing a movie about a place and time I don’t give much thought to usually. I mean I don’t know how many movies you guys have seen lately in any of the Sami languages, but I would say that those make up I’d say a mere 45% of the movies I watch these days, maybe even less.

I’m glad most people in movies don’t have those long mustaches, though. A couple of these guys always got snow stuck in their mustaches and you can’t stop looking at it. It’s like when you’re talking to somebody with a big wart on their nose and you realize you’re not making eye contact.

In one part I thought it might be some kind of dried-up fake snow liquid, and that was even more distracting. But it probly was real ice, because I read that they filmed most of it outside and in temperatures as low as -47 degrees C.

I suppose it still might not be snow on the mustache, it might be frozen milk or something. But other than that this is a good one.

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 18th, 2011 at 12:56 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

16 Responses to “Pathfinder (1987)”

  1. Was in Oslo recently (during their unpleasantness, actually) a d couldn’t source a subtitled copy of this. Saw it on TV years ago; it’s great.

  2. They really screwed this one up when they did the remake. Gave it an unambiguously happy ending and everything.

  3. Nils Gaup was offered several Hollywood films. He was offered Robocop (perhaps it was one of the sequels as it came out around the same time as Pathfinder), Not Without My Daughter, and he started to direct Waterworld, but walked off when he thought the budget became to big and I guess he felt he loosed control.

  4. That film is on TV every few weeks. I really must watch it at one point.

  5. Never heard of this one, but it sounds interesting. I might check it out if there’s a DVD with English subtitles in Region 2 anywhere.

  6. Here you go:


    Warning: it might be dubbed, it doesn’t really say, but with that price I think it’s worth a risk.

    Another Norwegian childhood favourite:

    Shipwrecked, it got Gabriel Byrne as a villain, and it got a man-in-suite gorilla. It think this was co-produced with Disney, so it was shown on the Disney channel in America and probably other countries.

  7. When I’m thinking about childhood favourite there is also this film:

    I think it’s a Swedish-Uk-Russian co-production with Christian Bale and Christopher Lee in the lead, but has a few Norwegian and Swedish actors, and was shown a lot on tv. I remember there was some great Astrid Lindgren adaptation, but this got Bale and Lee, which is just awesome.

  8. Rudolf Klein-Rogge

    August 18th, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Ghost: Both Shipwrecked and Mio In The Land of Faraway were childhood favourites of mine as well. Shipwrecked is actually from the same director as Pathfinder. These were his first two movies, and they’re still his best. The Christopher Lambert movie Vern mentioned has a couple of good scenes, and I recall finding Misery Harbour quite interesting, but it’s been a while. On the other hand, Gaup’s latest one, Kautokeino-opprøret, was pretty weak stuff…

  9. I remember this movie as very good from childhood (up in that region). But what I remember most is that it didn’t hold a candle in awesomeness to the film When the Raven Flies (1984). At least, that was when I was a kid. I guess its time to rewatch them both now.

  10. Rudolf Klein-Rogge

    August 18th, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Isn’t When the Raven Flies more or less a remake of Yojimbo/Fistful of Dollars etc? I believe I read that somewhere, though I’ve only seen the beginning of the film, and that was ages ago. The only thing I remember was the sound the throwing knives made.

  11. It was more than heavily inspired by Leone’s westerns, that’s for sure. I can’t really tell how close the plot was to Fistful, because all I remember is how cool it (Raven) was. And also, “thunkur knifvur” (or however you spell it), which was very quotable. But all I remember from pathfinder is the skiing as well. So, time to find them again.

  12. I think Kautokeino-Opprørert only had two good things going, and that was Bjørn Sundquist who always rocks, but who has become a parody of himself, and I thought the danish minister (isn’t that what protestant preacher are called) played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) was surprisingly faired and balanced character. I think the probably was that it was just an reconstruction of a historical event, and does are usually boring when they are done so straight forward.

    I kinda like Misery Harbour. Mostly because it has Graham Green in a Norwegian film, and Coster-Waldau in a lead, but mostly because it’s based on Aksel Sandemose, and today his book has still an impact on the Norwegian society, and Janteloven (Jante law (or norm) is still very much in every Norwegian subconscious. We like to beat rich and famous people down to our level, and does like people that show they are rich. I guess you aren’t suppose to show that you are rich or successful.

  13. You know what really pisses me off? That original title bullshit. OFELAS. You immediately assume it’s gonna be a genre mash of OLDBOY and GOODFELLAS. Maybe even starring all the same stars but filmed in the snow, right? No chance. They couldn’t even get Ray Liotta. Fuck you Norway. Fuck you and your misleading language.

  14. Bjørn Sundquist a parody of himself?! I just saw him in the Swedish WWII movie The Border (Gränsen) and he’s still the the coolest Norwegian ever!

  15. As a bearded guy who lives in a cold clime, I thought I would jump in and offer my expertise here.

    When its cold the moisture from your breath tends to form ice crystals in your moustache. Now you know.

  16. Rudolf and Doc; The Raven Flies, The Shadow of the Raven and the White Viking (my translation), all directed by Hrafn Gunnlaugsson, are the best viking movie trilogy ever made. The first one’s based on A Fistful of Dollars (Gunnlaugsson’s words), and follows it pretty closely, the other two are original stories. I don’t know how much the first move inspired Nils Gaup when he made Ofelas, but in ’87 we all felt it was the first Norwegian/Sami movie that could really compete with our Icelandic neighbours’ output.

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