sometimes sayles reminds me of altman. part of this may be because they’re both highly regarded independent american directors, but this film was more altmanian (?) because, in the beginning, it juggles several different character lines. after about half an hour the film settles into three main characters and we mostly follow them through to the end. there’s a great degree of symbolism in the film which makes it all the more engaging and interesting. the film as a whole takes on the feeling of a parable. sayles makes the film bigger in a couple, fairly obvious, ways. the film takes place in alaska and it opens with a voice-over narrative on the fishing industry of the region. the narrator discusses the beauties of the area and talks about the salmon runs that make the area thrive. as the credit sequence ends we see that the narrator is in fact a factory worker responsible for processing the salmon after they’ve been caught. in this way sayles immediately draws a wide picture and brings us into the personal reality of this larger image. he does this throughout by integrating symbols relating to salmon and correlating them to the characters that the film follows. there is also a peripheral set of characters who are in the business of developing alaska – this serves as a way of again making the story larger than just the three main characters.
in the first 30 minutes when characters are being established the editing is quick and fragmented. sayles will drop out of a scene with the sound blaring or, seemingly, in the middle of a cinematic thought. i thought of this primarily as a way of strengthening the limbo theme…it’s like running from one end of a see-saw to the other, never really committed to either side. it was an interesting method, but not altogether aesthetically pleasing. another minor quibble i had with the first portion of the film was that there seemed to be an excessive amount of exposition. there’s really no way around it since there’s a lot of backstory to be told, but i found sayles’ storytelling in this regard a bit simple.
after about 30 minutes i didn’t think that there was any way i was going to bond with the female lead in the film, but, through a combination of good acting and a sympathetic male counterpart, i found myself more bonded to her than i thought. the other major characters were more sympathetic and i didn’t have a problem understanding them at all.
i think that this is my favorite sayles film so far. as for the ending…