In 2015 one of the surprise Christmas TV hits was a slow-moving piece of Nordic Blanc TV. BBC4 broadcast 2 hours of a sleigh ride through the snowy wastes of Norway following two sami travellers. There was snow, tinkling bells and lots of… well, snow. No background music, no special effects and a lot of praise for what the broadcasters call ‘slow TV’.
I missed the original broadcast of the sleigh ride, so I was delighted when I was offered a promotion copy of the DVD to review*. What a treat it was!
The wilderness trail is actually an old postal route, and the two sleighs pulled by reindeer make their way slowly along the scenery of Karasjok, 200 miles North of the Arctic Circle. There is very little dialogue, no background music and not an awful lot of variety in a landscape covered by snow and bare trees. Not what you’d expect to keep a family quiet for a night.
Now, fair enough, you are not going to get away with it as a present for a teenage boy mad for Marvel or DC superhero films, and my family looked at me askance as I put the DVD on one night, but I chose my night well. We had things to do, games to play and I used this as the most quietly enjoyable background watching. As we ate, the occasional fact floated across the screen, to be noticed and pointed out by the watchers between mouthfuls of beef stew (I didn’t think a nice venison casserole was the thing to serve).
They were interesting facts as well, names for reindeer, facts about the landscape, notes on a way of life still followed by the locals living in an area where even your almighty Land Rover struggles to go. We never knew that an obstinate female reindeer was called a njirru (why would we??) but NOW we know that, it’s a useful (and far more polite sounding) word to be used at moments of great provocation (Sarah, I’m looking at you).
The fact that there were only 4 hours of daylight during which to film is impressive, as is that they made 4 separate films on the same journey over 4 days before choosing the best one for the show.
The Sleigh Ride probably wouldn’t work as a programme for a family of teenagers if you put it on and insisted on silent viewing.We found that using it as background for an evening of entertainment such as card games or board games worked well, because it gave us just the right amount of visual and sound without requiring either brain or body to be involved. I know, however, that several more mature acquaintances found it a relaxing change from frenetic Christmas viewing, repetitive, calming, very much slow TV.
I liked it, a lot, and I watched it a few times this Christmas. I’m not sure I’d want to do the journey myself, but I enjoyed the virtual experience.
*Although this was a free promotion item, I wouldn’t just praise a thing. The views are my own & honestly given.