Jacob Grønlykke's Inuit Odyssey

Patricia N. Freiert & William K. Freiert

Gustavus Adolphus College

Danish director Jacob Grønlykke has created a powerful and sophisticated Odyssey, set in the north of Greenland among culture-shocked Inuit.

Grønlykke and co-author Hans Anthon Lynge adopt the identification of Oydsseus and Telemachus implicit in Homer for their protagonist, Rasmus Linge.  Linge, the middle-aged son of Niisi Linge, a leader in the assimilation movement of mid-twentieth century Greenland, lives with the results of his father's achievement.  His alcoholism and fantasies of being the great hunter bring about the suicide of his son Niisi and estrangement from his second son, Simon.  At his son's funeral, the Christianized Inuit preacher laments how much the community has become "victims of the ghosts of the past."  In a burst of despair, Rasmus sets out on an odyssey into the northern mountain wilderness in search of reconciliation with his father and his son.

His journey leads to encounters with mythological characters from places ever deeper within his subconscious.  His first encounter is actually a realistic one with two young Danish women who offer him the hospitality of their tent and comment on the impracticality of his rubber boots as opposed to their seal-skin ones.  Rasmus, the Inuit, has become so ennervated by civilization that he has lost the coping skills of his own tradition, which the Danes have adopted.  Borrowing from Cocteau's Orphée, Grønlykke has a radio entice Rasmus into an underworld.

Rasmus' principal adversary on his journey is a Quivittog, a hermit spirit of the mountains, who takes all he has, warns him away from a nude, dancing Circe figure and her fearful knowledge, and leads him to an arctic nowhere, in which the past is reality and the conflict of cultures is shattering.  In that icy underworld of native settlements he learns that "one cannot go back", encounters the ghost of his father, and puts his father's old adversary to rest. 

The return of a triumphant Rasmus to civilization is prophecied by his loyal wife, Marie's, mantra of "Your father is coming back" and concludes with a scene of forgiveness and reconciliation with his son.  "Heart of Light" employs the archetype of Homer's Odyssey to plumb the traumas inherent in indiginous communities of the colonized.  

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