Conquest of the South Pole

Film
From the opening credits, featuring archive footage of Amundsen's historic expedition, it's clear that MacKinnon's first feature - a low budget adaptation of Manfred Karge's play - is going to be quite special. Led by the seductive and sinister Sloopianek (Rimkus), a group of unemployed Scottish youngsters decide to fill their time - and fend off fears of failure - by recreating the first successful trip to the Antarctic in their home town. Almost inevitably, the task takes on epic proportions - glaciers, equipment, huskies and penguins must be found - and the group steadily splinters over strategy and purpose. Shot among the ice-houses, docksides and tenement blocks of Leith, the film is at once faithful to Karge and a visually stimulating piece of cinema. Though endowed with a bleak conclusion, it never lacks wit or tenderness, since MacKinnon celebrates the crucial role played by imagination in the youth's fantastic voyage of self-discovery. With strong performances from a young, largely unknown cast, he explores a broad emotional landscape, never slipping into facile pathos or liberal tub-thumping, so that one is finally left invigorated by what might otherwise have seemed a futile, ludicrous odyssey.

By: GA

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