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Customer Review

HALL OF FAMEon September 1, 2003
That's what young Otto's father asks him in Julio Medem's Los Amantes del Circulo Polar, and quite frankly, something I'd like to ask all of you. The two were having a conversation on one of the philosophical aspects of life. "Everything needs to be cyclic. Everything begins and ends." "That's life," according to the father. "Happy and sad. Everything expires over time."
The story concerns Otto and Ana, two children who met when they were eight, and whose lives become entwined further when Otto's father and Ana's mother marry. However, the beginning shows Otto as a pilot delivering long distance air-mail and flashes back and forth to his childhood and adolescent years. As for Ana, we hear her voice over a cinematically beautiful scene of a lake reflecting the salmon-coloured sky, as if it were a lake of pink lemonade, the sun dipping down lower until looping back up in time-lapse photography. She says she could tell the story of her life through coincidences, and is waiting for the biggest one of all.
The action cuts between Otto's POV and Ana's, so certain scenes are repeated, but we hear both character's thoughts, which provide insight into their characters. Both children have experienced losses. Otto's parents have split up, and Otto was closer to his mother. His mother is similarly counsels him on the impermanence of things. "Life's tribulations have to be taken with humour because they come and go. They don't last forever."
Ana lost her father in a car accident and sees Otto as a reincarnation of her father, a present from her father for having died early.
The story of how Otto got his name, when his grandfather rescued a German pilot named Otto who was shot down over Guernica, plays a key role in this story of coincidences.
As time goes on, Otto and Ana fall for each other, and Otto even moves in with his father just to see Ana everyday. Despite not being biological siblings, they have to hide their love from their respective parents. However, the tide turns when Otto's mother dies, and a suicide attempt reveals the guilt Otto feels in giving too much attention to Ana, thus separating the two.
The two leads also appeared in Alejandro Amenebar's Abre Los Ojos, Fele Martinez as Pelayo and Najwa Nimri as Nuria. As Otto and Ana, Martinez and Nimri pull sterling performances, exuding individuals going through their pained lives.
One series of shots of Otto and Ana being at the same square, but at different tables, barely missing each other, is intriguing. Otto is seen to the left, reading the want ads, and to his right but farther back, we see Ana, her back to him. It's one of those heartwrenching moments when I want to leap in and say, "Behind you!!"
The use of palindromic names, Otto and Ana symbolize the circular and eternal qualities of love. And check out the director's last name--Medem. And the Arctic Circle, beyond which the sun never sets in midsummer, also represents that eternal flame of love.
Yes, the ending is a bummer, but not so much. However, I'd sure like to know what question Otto wrote on that paper airplane. And maybe someone else who has seen this movie can tell me if there is something that lasts forever.
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