Set in the barren landscapes of Yakutia in Siberia, writer/director Liesbeth De Ceulaer’s Holgut is a mythic and ethereal docu-drama that poses fascinating questions on time and humanity as well as our role in the extinction (and de-extinction) of the species with which we share the Earth.

The first half of the film follows two brothers, a man and a boy, on the hunt for wild reindeer – a ritual to end his boyhood – whose very existence has become mythical, the catastrophic impact of humanity laid bare. Their hunt seems futile, the barren land captured gorgeously in all its vast and empty splendour by cinematographer Jonathan Wannyn. The second half focuses on a scientist on the hunt for mammoth flesh emerging from the melting permafrost. However, unlike the others scouring the earth for mammoths as part of a Siberian Ivory Rush, the scientist wishes to clone the extinct species in an ardent display of humanity’s attempt to bend time to its will.

The contrast between the tradionality of the ritualistic reindeer hunt and the modernity of scientific cloning is undeniably stark, bringing the film’s questions on humanity’s place in the grand tapestry of geologic time to the forefront. A stunning visual poem, De Ceulaer has crafted a film that blends reality with myth, the effect of which is profound in its pondering upon humanity’s role as both a harbinger of destruction and a godlike provider of life divorced from the constraints of time. 

★★★½

This review was written by Oli Gamble, member of the thatfilmbloguk team, American and Canadian Studies student, and co-host of the thatfilmbloguk podcast.