Archive for July 29th, 2013

Bookstock Features Jay Craven and New Film Northern Borders

Bruce DernJay Craven’s new film Northern Borders is enlightening and beautiful at the same time as it is equally dark and depressing. How can this be? It is finely crafted as a tale of two warring grandparents — each wack-a-doodle Vermonters in their own way — under the keen and watchful eye of their young grandson come to spend some time with them.

Perhaps the way to measure a film, in the context of storytelling or visual impact , is to consider whether it stays with you until the next day. Upon waking, we remembered Craven’s visuals — generally dark but precisely lit close-ups like a series of theater sets or slightly moving dripping stills of a maple syrup shovel, the look in crotchety biggest bastard of Kingdom County Bruce Dern’s face as he eats or reads. There are the visual details of the horse and pack that a returned relative uses to stow her stash of stolen bank-robbed cash. We see over and over the young man petting or caressing animals — at first just the dead hunted ones on his grandparents walls and eventually the live cows and horses that anchor this film in Vermont. There is a lot of farm machinery: trucks and shovels and axes and guns, detailed in their close-up shots, visually saying this is THIS place.Northern Borders Book

The storytelling, from Howard Frank Mosher’s book, however emotionally wrenching, sticks, too. Are these two crotchety old people actually happy, these two who have weathered much both before and after their long marriage? The young boy asks. Do they love each other? Hard to say.  But we are told they abide by each other in their kvetching and their maple syrup competition and their disagreeable addressing each other in formal tones through the young boy. But, ultimately, life of this sort can tire out a soul, a doctor suggests.

The movie, in its slow, measured, almost tortured storytelling leads us to see slow, measured, tortured change in this hardscrabble family. People admit to loneliness.  Stand up to Grandpa. Grandpa abides by the final wishes of his Egypt-loving, mummy-scarred-obsessed wife. Yes, and finally, the cluster flies that have plagued her home their entire life get sucked up and destroyed.  So, really, after all, in death there is new hope. This movie has a happy ending. Doesn’t it?