Skip to main content

Far North: Love in a cold climate

  • Story Highlights
  • Sean Bean stars in Asif Kapadia's new thriller, 'Far North'
  • Film was shot in the Arctic Circle in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees
  • Stars and crew lived on an ice-breaker, had to be protected from polar bears
  • Next Article in Entertainment »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Avoiding polar bears and hanging by rope over icy crevasses isn't in an actor's job description for most movies. But then most films aren't shot in the Arctic Circle.

Sean Bean

Actor Sean Bean talks to the Screening Room at the Venice Film Festival

The unforgiving beauty of the polar landscape inspired director Asif Kapadia's new thriller, Far North. The film showed out of competition at the Venice Film Festival this year and confirmed the promise of Kapadia's first picture, BAFTA-nominated "The Warrior."

It is the story of two women living at the limits of survival whose fragile equilibrium is shattered when they find a half-dead man in the snow.

Kapadia wanted to capture the unique world of glaciers, icebergs and snow-capped mountains by shooting inside the Arctic Circle but the logistical considerations were massive. Kapadia was also walking a seasonal tightrope by waiting around to catch the onset of the harsh Arctic winter, which was vital for some scenes.

Stars Michelle Yeoh, Sean Bean, Michelle Krusiec and crew spent four weeks living on a Russian ice-breaker and shooting in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.

Cast and crew were shooting in temperatures that could plummet to minus 30 degrees. Equipment seized up causing delays and severe cold and tiredness caused some crew members to pass out. Four armed guards had to be on the lookout to protect actors and crew from the constant threat of polar bears.

CNN's Screening Room talks to one of the film's stars, Sean Bean about acting in the Arctic Circle and the British film industry.

CNN: How did you end up making this film?

Sean Bean: I met Asif Kapadia, the director, nearly two years ago. I got sent the script and I was very impressed. I thought it was a great story. Quite a simple story but very raw. I thought there was a lot of potential to do a hell of a lot with it and having met Asif and seeing his real sort of passion I was very enthralled by the prospect of making his film.

CNN: It took a long time for the film to be made. What happened?

SB: It kind of died off. Something happened or the finance disappeared. The usual kind of thing where something is off and then it's on again and about a year later he gave me a call again and said it's back on again. I was in New Mexico at the time which was very hot, the desert, so I didn't really know what to expect when he said we were going to the Arctic and living on a ship. I thought, "well, fine" but when we got there I realized just how bleak it was.

CNN: The script doesn't have much dialogue. How did you go about building your character?

SB: There's not a huge lot of dialogue as you said. It's more about how they interact. I mean, there's not a great deal of background to the character. With my character Loki you don't know where he's come from. He just appears out of the wilderness, freezing to death. There wasn't a great deal said between the characters but there was a hell of a lot going on.

The power of this film is that it's what's not said -- how Asif managed to capture the moments between the three characters where each one is thinking, "what is the other thinking?" Where does the shift of power lead to, how are they attracted to each other? That's what I found fascinating, that there were these three people in a very peculiar, disturbing triangle. They are stuck in the middle of nowhere. Their main aims are to find food and keep warm and I suppose the third is to be close to someone and be comforted by someone and to have someone love you and care for you. It is this constantly shifting relationship between the three of them that I found very haunting and ultimately very sad.

CNN: Your character is also quite mysterious.

SB: Yes, in the sense that he doesn't seem to have any history, which I thought was quite interesting. It's usually good to know something about the background of the character but in this case I thought it was good that he just appears like a ghost.

CNN: What is your take on the much maligned British film industry?

SB: I don't really make a great deal of films in the UK so I don't really know...I suppose that tells you something about it. I think it's been the case for few years now that things like tax breaks have been taken away and it's made it more difficult to get British films off the ground. There are films being made but it's so difficult to get those films distributed, publicized and promoted that it often puts investors off putting their money into British films.


The main loss is the fact we have so many people that are talented, not just on the acting side but on the technical side, the artistic side and the craftsman. I think we are probably the best in the world at putting films together and coming up with fantastical stories that should be being told now.

I'm not trying to criticise other countries for making films like they do but you often have to go to the American market in order to get films made. That's probably what I do a lot and it's a shame because I think the same stories are been told over and over again. There are so many stories out there and so much talent in the UK that's not being tapped into. I wish it wasn't the case. Maybe it won't be soon. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print