It’s hot in LA…finally! I know most people, plants, and animals are suffering but, frankly, I’d feel cheated if we didn’t have at least one week of weather in the triple digits.While the papier mâché projects bake outside, I indulge in a perverse pleasure: sweating on the couch while watching films where the hardiest humans survive and even thrive in the coldest climes on earth. Only through art can I truly appreciate the unbearable beauty of winter, ice, and the deep freeze.

lake_cabin_mountainI suspect there are others who share this odd obsession. Why else would PBS show Alone in the Wilderness in an endless loop during their fundraisers? People who have absolutely no intention of even visiting Alaska are transfixed bythe experiences of a man who sets out for northern reaches at age 50, builds a house from scratch right down to the sink and spoons, catches, gathers and grows almost all of his food, and lives there alone for the next 30 years, videotaping the entire experience. Who wouldn’t be struck dumb with awe, admiration and not a little bit of envy? More recently, Werner Herzog shows his hand by titling his documentary Happy People, which reveals the solitary lives of sable hunters in Siberia.

An interesting note in both of these films is that the winters appear gorgeous (at least on TV), while the summers are nasty, brutish and short. Caribou drown themselves in an effort to escape black files, while the Siberians cover their children in tar to prevent a similar fate. (For a humorous take on this plague of insects, watch the Canadian short animated film Black Fly and laugh your socks off.)

Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001) is my favorite cold climate movie. My husband was driven mad by the heat one July 4th in Boston. We handled it the old-fashioned way: by going to the movie theater. By the end of the movie, we were both chilled. The movie is that long, and it is that beautiful.

Cold Comfort

You too can indulge in cold comfort these hot summer nights. Most of these faves are available online or at your local alone-in-the-wildernesslibrary:

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2010) directed by Werner Herzog

Alone in the Wilderness (2004)

Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001)

Shakelton’s Voyage of Endurance (1999)

Smilla’s Sense of Snow (1997)

Map of the Human Heart (1992)

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

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