Chamisso’s Shadow: A Journey to the Bering Sea in Three Chapters. Chapter 2, Part 2: Chukotka and Wrangel Island
Continuing her exploration of Chukotka and points north, Ottinger documents varied facets of the region’s natural, cultural, and political history. She ventures to the interior to visit the camps of reindeer herders (who dwell in yaranga tents resembling the Mongolian yurts of the filmmaker’s earlier documentary epic, Taiga) and watches locals in a seaside town perform traditional dances against a backdrop of Russian Orthodox onion domes. She transits the Bering Strait, the fraught channel where Russia and the United States nearly meet, to visit the remote islands of Kolyuchin and Wrangel, once roamed by mammoths, later populated by musk ox, polar bears, and occasionally a few brave and hardy humans. Images of a young fox at play on the tundra are overlaid with the baleful narration of Georg Wilhelm Steller describing how foxes tormented the sick and desperate crew of the Bering expedition: taking in this fascinating and forbidding place, Ottinger’s point of view allows for both awe and irony.