The Last Winter
(2006, 107 mins, color, dr, Larry Fessenden)

The Last Winter | screenings | trailer | cast | crew | notes | shoot | press | photos | graphix | comic | score | feedback | |



The LAST WINTER had its World Premier on September 11th 2006 at the Toronton International Film Festival




“There is a feeling I get when I think about Global Warming: a deep sense of aching sadness and nostalgia for a time before the future had been taken from us, when life had a continuum with or without us being here, where even war and terrorism would be phases in history that would end, and rebirth was possible and assured, and my children could dream of having children, and that sounded right and not like a pipe dream. Whether or not doom and gloom lies before us, there are personalities that experience the facts and implications of Global Warming this way: deeply personally with melancholy and dread.

“Then there are those who would ignore the problem, dismiss all mention of it as a conspiracy or a hoax, bluster through their daily routines, scoff at the notion of even a pause in the march of progress and the grand cycle of consumption and production.

“With THE LAST WINTER, I wanted to bring two such types together, see them both humanely, with their weaknesses and strengths, hopes and disappointments and then let them struggle together to survive in a world undergoing a complete collapse. Not a sudden definable collapse, but a slow, imperceptible shift in the workings of the planet that made it just a little less familiar, a little less predictable, a little less ‘home’: menacing almost.

“In this story the very real and frightening reality of the planet transforming relates to our own natural process of getting older, becoming disillusioned, struggling with mortality, lost idealism, lost youth, lost love, and more and more, seeing the past recede in the rear view mirror. Both Pollack and Hoffman in the film are feeling the pressures of time weighing on them. Maybe they want to deny it, like they want to deny the planet could be ill.

“I am interested in the way the mind processes disappointment, trauma and fear. Even in our most sophisticated and informed state, in the so-called modern world, we are still making sense of reality through mythological tropes. In my films there is always a struggle between the real and the imagined, often these fears are manifested as specters. In THE LAST WINTER, an encounter with the ghostly visitations surrounding the camp is a harbinger to an individual’s end. It is the tuning in to the acute stress signals of the land that leads to the characters’ demise.

“In the structure of the film there is a careful accumulation of rational, scientific explanations for all that goes wrong at the station, but ultimately it is the confusion that defines the crew’s reality as each crew member loses the ability to distinguish fact from fiction, analysis from emotion. Which crew member are we to believe? Each of their responses seems clouded by subjectivity. Even Abby who we wish we could rely on seems calculated in her reactions. There is no reliable narrator. Is this the ironic end to modern man in the twenty first century? That the rational still loses out to fear and delsuion.


“I embarked on the writing of LAST WINTER in November of 2001, shortly after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. It was a very oppressive, anxious time, especially for New Yorkers predisposed to melancholy. I found solace embarking on my new script with a partner, Robert Leaver, a writer, poet, and comrade. The set up of THE LAST WINTER is in the tradition of ALIEN and John Carpenter’s THE THING as well as the real life adventures of Earnest Shakelton. The script is influenced by films as diverse as Lee Tamahori’s THE EDGE, Hans Peter Moland’s ZERO KELVIN, Kurasawa’s DERSU USALA, and the writings of Barry Lopez in ‘Arctic Dreams.’

“I presented a draft to the producer of WENDIGO, Jeff Levy-Hinte. He determind we must travel to Alaska to research the script and scout locations. Levy-Hinte and I traveled to the town of Dead Horse, a tiny industrial enclave in Northern Alaska where the oil industry is situated. We arrived in the only hotel in town in March of 2003, two days into the Iraq war, and dined in a cafateria-style mess hall with the oil company men, two big-screen TV’s playing CNN and FOX news war coverage from the corners of the room. Driving around in the sub-zero weather, photographing the land, the rigs, the equipment, the details of the hotel, we gained extraordinary insight into this world that would profoundly affect future drafts of the script as well as the design of the film. Flying over The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and ski-mobiling through it, I was struck by the vast white expanse of the land: no mountains, no texture. A claustrophobic moonscape. “Pure white nothingness,” as a contemptuous Senator once disparaged. And yet breathtaking, majestic, and humbling.

“One thing our trip taught us is we couldn’t realistically film in Alaska. Nor did a scout in Canada reveal any landscape as vast, flat and unspoiled as ANWR. Iceland came up through Levy-Hinte’s association with producer Joni Sighvatsson and we determined to embark on a scout. Here again the uniqueness of Alaska’s Northern slope was hard to replicate. We visited glaciers and even considered shooting in Greenland, but in truth, we were a low budget film and could not afford it. Eventually it was determined that Iceland held the most promise, and arrangements were made to start production in March 2005.

“It happened that I had seen HELLBOY and been captivated by Ron Perlman’s portrayal of the comic-book character. Perlman’s portrait brought to mind my vision of Pollack: bombastic and oddly vulnerable. In essence I wanted to remind genre audiences of the villains and strongmen that Perlman often plays, while showing an insecurity and almost childlike weakness under the bravado. Casting with Laura Rosenthal lead us to embody each of the eight characters from the screenplay with great articulation.

“We interviewed Directors of Photography in New York, and were lucky enough to have a number of excellent candidates, but I think that Jeff and I both wondered what it would be like to hire an Icelandic D.P., who knew this light, this landscape, this crew. We interviewed Magni Agustsson one Sunday morning after he’d taken a twelve-hour trip from Chicago to Reykjavik. In the interview he was groggy, too polite, but determined and articulate, the latter qualities being intriguing. A week later I called him while he was in the bath and gave him the job.

“We shot on location in Northern Iceland for three weeks, at times in subzero temperatures, or in un-seasonal rain, or winds of 40 knots, or blizzards, or a blistering sun. Iceland is experiencing acutely the radical temperature shifts from Global Warming even today, and many of the outlandish scenarios in the script were actually occurring. To be able to work with such a graphic palette as the endless, vast white landscape of the North was inspiring. Using the blank white canvas and a great deal of symmetry in the framing of shots, I wanted to highlight the tension between perceived order and chaos which to me epitomizes man’s long adversarial relationship with nature.

“With the music I wanted to take a very distinct journey from ambient tonal cues that bleed out of the sound design to very traditional musical cues that speak to the epic yearning in the human experience, the yearning for heroism and meaning in a world that has moved on, like a jilted lover; a pissed off specter. The film is an ode to a civilization we have squandered. For it is not so much the earth we have betrayed, it is ourselves. In my films I’m trying to use horror tropes to explore contemporary issues, to explore the real metaphysical horrors of contemporary life and address them through the familiar and comfortable metaphors and rhythms of the horror movie, the genre that always spoke to me the loudest ever since I was a kid.”

The Last Winter | screenings | trailer | cast | crew | notes | shoot | press | photos | graphix | comic | score | feedback | |