Qalupalik Review

Preface

During one of my first year university projects I had to research different ancient myths and stories. During my various searches I came across the Inuit legend of Qalupalik, a creature that lives in the sea and would take away children that would not obey their parents. I did some further reading and found there was a short film based on the legend, so I watched it and decided it was a fun one to review.

Review

Qalupalik (pronounced Ka-lu-pa-lik) stars Sam Tutatunak and is written, animated and directed by Ame Papatsie. The film follows a young Inuit boy named Angutii, who doesn’t help out around the camp. One day he is taken by the Qalupalik whilst playing on the shoreline.

Qalupalik is a traditional stop-motion film, and it’s art style is visually striking. The director Ame Papatsie (who is also the sole animator on the film) swaps between very bright blues, browns and whites for the human world and dark blacks and blues for the Qalupalik’s underwater world. It’s a very distinct change in the scenery but never feels jarring.

The animation is achieved through various techniques, sometimes small cut-outs are used to create a character while other times entire sections of cloth are used to be the underwater sea. These changing methods, while seeming odd the first time they are used together add to the odd quality of the Qalupalik’s surroundings and the wide open spaces of the Arctic Circle.

The main characters Angutii and his father have no facial features, each one is just a plain cut-out shape. The only character that has any definition is Qalupalik, with blood-red eyes, a pimpled face and large fangs, it highlights her grotesque features by giving none of the other characters any particular look. While the fact that we have no real connection with Angutti or his father because they are just a bland shell, it’s a perfect way for the film to say “This is Qalupalik’s film, we are going to focus on her.”

The sound design also helps characterise Qalupalik as a fabled monster. Whenever the film lingers on her, we hear a sound of wind chimes or a constant clinking, similar to Predator in… well, the film Predator. It’s creepy and unnerving to hear an unfamiliar sound being used as the call of a movie monster and is stays with you long after the film has ended. In conjunction with the sound design, the music that accompanies the film is spectacular. Inuit chanting is used at the beginning and the end of the film, making the film and the story feel much like a special ceremony that we get to look in on. Elsewhere, heavy bass drums and wooden sticks help build tension as the Qalupalik swims through the sea, and wind pipes play whenever Angutii looks out across the shore, highlighting his increased loneliness once he has been taken by the Qalupalik.

The narration, by Sam Tutatunak is a great addition to the film. Tutatunak’s deep bass voice adds to the feeling that this is a cautionary tale, told by elders to the young people of the tribe so that they are not taken by the Qalupalik. It’s got a nice ethereal quality, which also heightens the otherworldliness of the Qalupalik. The only real downside with this is that Tutaunak’s narration doesn’t contain any emotion, but it fits the story as a retelling of past events rather than a running commentary.

In conclusion, Qalupalik looks unlike any other film I’ve seen. It’s an interesting way to tell a story we’ve all heard a version of a thousand times before and has a great sense of knowing how to visually create a brilliantly grotesque monster.

Score: 7/10 Definitely one to watch if you’re interested in art or animation.

The link to the film is down below.

https://www.nfb.ca/film/nunavut_animation_lab_qalupalik

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