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Siberia is a world few people have visited, and to visit it in Mother Land (Eommaui Ttang) is more than a peek into the mystic. This gorgeous stop-motion animated film directed by Park Jae-beom looks at the life of one nomadic tribe as they face common dangers. I’m left wondering if it’s worth moving to live in a modern city. Although the reindeer they heard help sustain them, is that enough?
In this movie, Krisha (Lee Yun-ji) and her younger brother Ggolrya (Kim Seo-yeong) must look out for each other. That’s the advice their mother gave. They are precious to the tribe, and when mama rushed to protect her child from a falling piece of lumber, the injury did more than knock the wind out of her. Something else has taken her spirit too, and the illness is not as simple as the local healer thinks.
While the husband debates on what to do, the kids have other ideas and pretty soon, we’re seeing them survive on their own in the icy wasteland! I’m amazed at how well they can fend for themselves, as they search for the Great Red Bear. Their innocense and fight for survival is brilliantly realised in this animation medium. In terms of visual narration, I believe this Master of the Forest is like Shishigami from Mononoke Hime. Both are supernatural figures with strong connections to the land.
The choice to use stop-motion to bring this story to life is perfect. Not only does it do away with the problems of production had it been live action, but also the character designs are tops. They equal what Studio Laika can produce, and as for taking us into this reality, I was fully engrossed. The bear is effectively terrifying! I’d run away if I ever spotted that mountain of fur with glowing red eyes!
And as for whether Mom survives, I’m not spoiling. The way this filmmaker parallels the action between what goes on with the kid’s father tending to his wife to that of them tending to a sick bear is very clear. It makes me wonder if Krisha represents Ursa Minor and mama is Ursa Major.
Although what’s known about these constellations differs from culture to culture, I’m sure its significance in this nation is unique. I’d have to go digging into university libraries to study their folklore, because I doubt there’s enough publicly published material to read. And as for what Polaris represents, I’m sure this north star is more than a guiding light.
Additionally, the images played during the end credits hints at more, and I sense they’re worth a study too.
Even the Russian hunter’s goal to take down this legendary bear is worth noting. Although I thought it was an unnecessary addition to the man vs nature narrative, it had a different role to play when concerning belief in the supernatural. Although what’s revealed is very cut and dry, this foreigner’s faith isn’t going to get rattled here. Instead, it’s whether mother and child can be together again.
4½ Stars out of 5
Mother Land Movie Trailer