|Published Date: 24 December 2008
Ian Soutar finds out from Sean Bean what it's like running naked through the icy wastes of the Arctic Circle and reviews the latest films
IN between his two spells braving the heat of India for Sharpe's Challenge and Sharpe's Peril, Sean Bean went to the other extreme by venturing to the Arctic Circle to make a film called Far North.
" It's tough and it's challenging, but it's very exciting, and very rewarding," says the Sheffield actor. "I wouldn't have missed it for the world."
Far North is a story of myth, love and revenge played out against the epic landscape of the snowbound tundra in which the harsh but contented isolation of two women is interrupted by the arrival of a stranger. The pair end up competing for his affections with devastating consequences.
Bean, along with Michelle Yeoh and Michelle Krusiec, make up virtually the entire cast of the film as the only human presence in the vast snowy wastes.
Even then the dialogue in the film written and directed by Asif Kapadia is minimal. "I quite like that, I like what you can do without dialogue," says Bean. "I like the way Asif presents characters and landscapes without having to explain the plot and the exposition. I like the way that he looks at things, and he frames things. And I quite enjoy watching silent films because you had to get over the meaning and the feeling – I know they can get a bit hammy sometimes, and a bit obvious – but there is a way of doing it without speaking sometimes, which I prefer. And I think sometimes words are not necessary.
"I think once we get inside, once we all share that experience – myself and the two Michelles inside the tent – then it's a different story. Then there is the dialogue, where we found out who this man is, who they are, what their story is, and that's going to be really interesting. But I think it's very economical, the dialogue, and that's something I quite admire – someone who can write a piece of work without having to explain everything, without hitting you in the face with it."
Bean says when he signed up for Far North he expected conditions to be tough as he did when he started on Lord of the Rings – "but I suppose we had more money on that," he adds.
As someone who has lived in cities all his life, it was a bit of an eye-opener. "I think it just gives you an idea of, maybe, how other people live," he says.
"I think that most of us live in very busy cities, and everything's there all the time, everything's where you want it. You've got the media – you've got TVs in your face, you've got radio – you've got everything. Here we couldn't even get a text message to anybody for three weeks. It does give you that sense of isolation, which is good for the character.
"But to think that people can live in these conditions, and to live off the land, and to live from day to day – that's what I find fascinating. Maybe it's because I'm from Sheffield, which was industrialised, it was busy and there were people around. And now I'm in London, and to come here and just to see people that actually do live here is quite amazing – I just wonder what they do sometimes, you know?
"Maybe it's a better thing, maybe we've got too much shoved in our faces all the time, I don't know. Maybe there is something out there that is peaceful, for them. They all seem pretty happy anyway!"
The film has a shocking dénouement which ends with Bean's character running naked in shock out into the snow.
He says: "I didn't have any problem with exiting as I did and scarpering, getting the hell out of there. And I thought I would, in some sense, because I've never done that before, it's a very strange experience, it's a very strange sensation – to be sat in a tent with no clothes on, in the middle of the Arctic, and somebody says action and you just run out and go, 'aaaghhh…effin' hell!'
"But it didn't bother me because it was good, and I thought – I can't be running out of there and pulling me trousers up and all this, it would be like a farce, like a comedy, you know? So, that was ok. And, like I said, it's been tough, it's been hard, it's been demanding, but it's been right."