In 1955, the town of Northfork is about to be flooded as a hydroelectric dam is completed.Three two-man Evacuation Teams move through the remnants of the town, getting the lastholdouts to move. If they evacuate 65 households, they will be granted 1.5 acres of propertyalong the new lakefront. Among the last of the inhabitants of Northfork is Irwin, a dying orphanabandoned by his adoptive parents and cared for by the local minister (Nick Nolte). But Irwinmight also be … lost angel, a possibility being explored (on what may or may not be another planeof existence, or may or may not be Irwin’s fevered imagination) by a group of strange beings(notably Darryl Hannah as the adrogynous Flower Hercules).
Paring Northfork down to its plot elements does the film a disservice. This is a tonepoem, and it is a film that one experiences rather than follows. The Polish brothers have donesomething remarkable here, creating an atmosphere where dreams have a hard edge of reality andreality has a dreamlike fluidity, and both meet, mingle, and become indistinguishable. Hauntingin its austere beauty, heartbreaking in its generosity of spirit, a well-nigh perfect blend of elegiaclyricism and sneaky, delightful wit, Northfork is not only one of the most moving films inyears, it makes you excited about the infinite possibilities of the medium.
A lot of care clearly went into the sound design of the film, and the sound design is wellserved by this disc. This is a film of silences that meet the vast scale of the landscape, but alsoof startling bursts of sound, like the eruptions of magic. The placement of the sound effects isimpeccable:you can feel that cold wind on the back of your neck, and the fusion of said wind andthe music will take your breath away. The left-right separation is terrific (the amusingly inaneradio broadcasts travel from one speaker to another as the characters move away from their carradios). This is a movie whose purpose is to swallow you up in its strange, real/surreal world, andthe audio aids enormously.
The transfer is a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen one, and is simply gorgeous. Colours havebeen deliberately drained, giving the film a cold, mournful tint, very close to black and white.The flesh tones, which are virtually the only break from the black and gray that suffuse thescreen, are excellent. There is no grain, and no edge enhancement to interfere with the beauty ofthe film.
The commentary by Mark and Michael Polish is as soft-spoken as the film itself. Thebrothers provide plenty of behind-the-scenes detail, and explain not only how something wasdone, but why. “Bare-Knuckle Filmmaking: The Construction of Northfork” is a multi-chapter, 36-minute making-of featurette that puts most other extras of this kind to shame,spending less time on promotion than actually telling us how the film was made (againstsometimes staggering odds, such as an evaporating budget). There is a 5-minute segment fromthe Sundance Channel that focuses on the Polish brothers’ relationship with Montana. The otherextras are a still gallery, the theatrical trailer, and trailers for And Now Ladies andGentlemen, The Italian Job and Mostly Martha (a rather eccentric grouping, Imust say). The wonderfully evocative menu has a fully scored and animated main page and intro,and scored second-level pages.
Easily one of the best films of 2003, and given a thoroughly respectful treatment by thetransfer. Emphatically recommended, and I envy anyone who watches this for the first time.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- “Bare-Knuckle Filmmaking: The Construction of Northfork”
- 24-Frame News Segment: Northfork
- Theatrical Trailer
- Photo Gallery
- Bonus Trailers