Without any voiceover to act as a compass, documentary-maker Jessica Oreck drops viewers into the rough-and-tumble lives of Finnish brothers Aarne and Lasse Aatsinki. These stoic men of the wilderness run a reindeer-herding collective in Lapland, rounding up gaggles of the animals for butchery and the tourist trade. In other words, don’t bring wide-eyed, Rudolph-loving kids unless you want them to be scarred by the sight of flayed carcasses and the most gruesome disembowelment since Han Solo sliced open that tauntaun on Hoth.
There’s plenty to like in Oreck’s year-in-the-life portrait: poetry in the harsh landscapes and wide shots of reindeer running around in lamb-to-the-slaughter unison. Yet the Aatsinki brothers never develop beyond a kind of anonymous masculinity, and overall the film tends to lull rather than engage the senses.