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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Film Thu Sep 09 2010

Beyond the Pole Comes to the Music Box

Thumbnail image for boys on ice wide silhouette 100kb.jpg

What could possibly convince a man to walk to the North Pole? Many men have traversed the Artic's cold weather and psychologically damaging environment for personal and scientific conquest. How many men can say that they're doing it for Mother Earth? In the mocumentary film Beyond the Pole director David L. Williams "follows" two men trying to reach the North Pole to highlight the effects of global warming. Normally this subject manner would be better suited for a serious drama, full of dangerous string parts and perilous situations. However the unique thing about Beyond the Pole is that it's anything but. Watch the trailer below and read more after the jump.

Beyond the Pole follow Mark (Stephen Mangan) and Brian (Rhys Thomas), two friends with a mission to be the first unsupported, carbon neutral, organic, and vegetarian team to reach the North Pole. The only catch is these guys have zero athletic or cold weather experiences to prepare them for their grizzly trek. Mark and Brian leave their significant others behind to venture to the North Pole. But competition from a rival Norwegian team, their personal inability to cope with the situation, and Mark's unchecked drive to complete the expedition start to turn a fun jaunt in the Arctic into a difficult journey.

Done in the mockumentary style, which seems to be getting more and more popular with modern filmmakers, director David Williams follows Mark and Brian's every move on their journey. Usually a situation like this calls for a more dramatic theme but Mark and Brian's loveable loser persona creates a comedic atmosphere for the film. Brian is an oblivious 9-5 guy who is so caught up in his own life that he doesn't realize his girlfriend Sandra is pregnant before he leaves on his expedition. Mark is caught up in environmentalism and is blindsided by the fact that his wife Melissa is leaving him, not understanding that his over-driven attitude is the reason for it. These guys aren't the heroic travelers in films like North Face, nor are they the die-hard researchers like Colin Beaven in the documentary No Impact Man. They are two guys who in lieu of chaining themselves to a tree have decided to prove their point in the most extreme and unthought way possible. There's a danger of using the "two best friends who don't know anything" archetype when making a character-driven film but Williams, who co-wrote Beyond the Pole, and screenwriter Neil Warhurst create a well-rounded and well-written plot for them to coexist in. Audiences may be surprised to recognize that one of the Norwegian members is none other than Alexander Skarsgard (Eric from HBO's True Blood). Somehow his villainous, blood-sucking ways disappear as he plays the frustrated Treje, an Olympic athlete who is also trying to reach the Pole with ex-lover Ketil. The added pressure from the Norwegian team breaks Mark and Brian from their carefree shells and fleshes out their characters as the film progresses and shows that even the most seasoned veterans have trouble dealing with each other in a confined space.

Another fantastic layer added to the film is that the cast and crew went to Greenland and Iceland to shoot the film. So when Mark and Brian are freezing in their zero degree tent, that's real. The production team shot most of the film in an Inuit village called Kap Tobin in Greenland. 800 miles from the next village, Kap Tobin was the perfect place to shoot Mark and Brian as they tried to cross some of the more treacherous terrain. Everyone slept in a makeshift habitat made from four shipping containers welded together. They had to reach locations by dog sled, brought hunters along to keep polar bears off the set, and had zero modern plumbing on set because the weather was so cold. Suffering the elements is a big part of Beyond the Pole and it was a big part of the cast and crew's lives too. But the sacrifice is worth it for the viewer. The weather seems to take the actors' performances that extra inch and it makes for some beautiful imagery throughout the film.

Beyond the Pole is screening at the Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport) as a part of the Chicago United Film Festival. The film is being shown Saturday, September 11 at 4:30 pm. Tickets are $10, or if you wish to explore some of the other films being offered at the fest you can purchase an all access pass for $70 or a mini pass for $35. Tickets can be purchased and the Music Box box office or online.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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