This documentary is hosted by UK actress Joanna Lumley in which she shares a very personal journey to learn about the culture of the Northern Lights and finally see them for herself.
Joanna’s voice is deep and breathy, with a very proper English accent. Her narration gives the film a dreamy, romantic quality and her eloquence, style of speech together with her warm personality make her an altogether charming guide. She openly shares her own fascinating experiences – living with her family in Malaysia (which she pronounces “Malay-zee-ya”) as a child she dreamed of cold and of the mystical North and especially of seeing the Northern Lights. In this film she travels through Norway, into the Arctic Circle and moves ever northward, meeting and staying with local people along the way.
The thing which struck me most about Joanna as a presenter, as herself (rather than an actor), was her humbleness, her amazing rapport with those she meets. She has a wonderful openness, an obvious great affection and generosity of feeling towards everyone else. She is very genuine in her appreciation of people, not at all condescending. When speaking to someone who doesn’t speak much English she listens patiently, earnestly, to what they’re saying. She in really involved, tries to understand everything she sees, and is happy to be corrected. She always tries the local language. She is open in her enthusiasm.
Joanna shows her glee at being able to finally experience the journey she’s dreamed of, and is ready to laugh at herself in ridiculous situations, like being taught how to right a snow mobile by a 4-year-old. One of my favourite scenes is when she is in the quaint fishing village of Å (“Or”) in a rorbu, a fishing cottage. Sitting at a table with her pastels and drawing book, Joanna creates a lovely picture of the scene from the window. I think it’s so brave of her to expose herself like that, to show the world such a private part of her life.
I think there always comes a time in anything you do, like drawing or painting, or indeed acting, when you think “will I ever be good enough to please – well, myself, let alone anybody else? Will it ever be good enough? Will I ever come up to scratch?” Or worse still, people lean over your shoulder and go “…don’t you think his eye is a little more like that?” and you just go “yes, I know, I know, I’m dealing with the eye later. Just, leave me-“. So you know I can’t bear being judged on the things like this because they’re really only for fun and if it pleases you – which it might not, but I mean try to make it please you – try to do things which please you, that’s all. And therefore if it’s not good enough – get better.
And after all this isn’t going to be exhibited anywhere.
…Except on television(!)
I think it’s great how her documentary is at once entertaining and informative, and you get to see a Norwegian journey you couldn’t see with anyone else. Joanna explains how since a young age she’s longed to see the Northern Lights after reading a children’s book called ‘Ponny the Penguin’ by Veronica Basser, in particular an illustration by Edwina Bell of Ponny standing under the Southern Lights and looking up. I think it’s great that when Joanna finally gets to see the Aurora Borealis there’s a shot of her in the film where she looks just like Ponny the Penguin!
I also love her dry sense of humour and I can’t wait to see more of her documentaries in the future. May there be many!
I highly recommend this DVD and if you’d like a taster, it’s also on YouTube.
Director: Archie Baron
Producer: Helena Braun
Starring: Joanna Lumley