In the Shape of a Reindeer Across the Canopy of Heaven turns thirty this year. It is the first part of Markku Lehmuskallio and Anastasia Lapsui’s documentary trilogy about the Nenets. This poetic documentary follows the ways of life of the Nenets, a Yurak Samoyed group living in the Ural region of Russia. The Nenets spend their winters at the taiga, and for summer, they take their reindeer and move to the tundra, to the shores of the Arctic Ocean.
According to Lehmuskallio, the movie was born out of a mirage. While traveling on the tundra, surrounded by nothing but white snow, he suddenly came across a reindeer herder and his sleigh, and the next moment they were gone. It was something he had never experienced before, even frightening.
The documentary portrays the harsh cycle of seasons by depicting everyday events. In the movie, the Nenets’ lives are interlaced by the observable world, the spiritual world, everyday tasks and animistic religion. The documentary follows five families, both adults and children. Anastasia Lapsui’s songs, passed down from her mother, give new layers to the narrative.
The cooperation of Lehmuskallio and Lapsui went on to continue in the following parts of the trilogy, Lost Paradise (1994) and A Farewell Chronicle (1995).
Timo Matoniemi (translated by Mira Sairanen)
The filmmakers Markku Lehmuskallio and Anastasia Lapsui are present in the screening on Wed, Feb 1.