Oh, what an intelligent film with many layers, was my thought after the 85 minutes in company with Zdenka and her family in Svalbard. Including not only the young Czech social anthropologist going to the Arctic with her family to study the life of the people, who have chosen to live there, and how the community is built up, but also existential questions like “what can we give back to other people”, when you are – as she says, clever Zdenka – “a short time visitor or a long time tourist”. In a skype talk Zdenka has with her mentor, the latter tells her that you can not be an anthropologist and a social worker. This is one of the many qualities of the film that it takes the protagonist from being the neutral interviewer to become involved in the complex mindset of being a Svalbard citizen, who tries to be at home or build a home. Is it Norwegian, Svalbard, not really the film says through the many conversations Zdenka has with citizens of Longyearbyen – what a name for a city. Zdenka talks to a journalist, a mining engineer (the mining industry is to stop or has stopped), the mayor of Longyearbyen, a priest, a librarian, a biologist, a student, a goldsmith, an Ethiopean, Zdenka has helped but who has no job and can not get a place to stay… the anthropologist breaks down, “I can’t help you”, she says in that scene.
I/we would like to stay here, my kids (she has three of them) consider this their home, she speaks good Norwegian, she gets along with everybody, she has a nice husband. But what is home and she misses the green trees and the smell of spring back home in Czech Republic?
Which brings me to the thought that Veronika Liškova must have had in mind, while making this beautifully shot (the icy sceneries, the tiny kids in the extraordinary nature playground) respectful and also personal documentary about the good human being, who wants to understand and help: But has to realize that it is not possible for a Zdenka or a film director Veronika, who will stay the short time visitor. But less is more and again a skilled documentary director has taken her audience to a mythical place on the earth. Enjoyable and food for thought.
Czech Republic, 2022, 85 mins.