A thousand years ago on the frozen Lapland plain (today the northern most part of Norway, Sweden and the USSR), sixteen-year-old Algin returns from a hunting trip shocked to find that a raiding party of Tchude warriors have killed his family and are now tearing apart their settlement as they look for valuables and food. Algin watches from a hill above, but is soon discovered. He flees to a nearby Lapp camp.
His unexpected arrival creates conflict among the people. Some blame him for endangering their lives by leaving tracks in the snow; others say he had no choice. When the non-violent Lapps all agree to flee for their lives, Algin insists that they confront the vicious warriors, but no one listens.
Algin stays behind to make a one-man stand and avenge his family. During the night, he is visited by Raste, the Lapp community’s “noaidi”, a sort of spiritual leader/medicine man, who tells the young boy that he must never let the craving for revenge take control of his soul.
The next morning, three Lapps arrive to join forces with Algin against the Tchudes. They are slaughtered, though, in a surprise attack, as Algin watches helplessly from a hiding place in a tent. Suddenly, Raste appears and instructs the boy to escape while he distracts the evil warriors. However, the holy man is overpowered before Algin can get away.
The Tchudes torture the old man to find out where the other Lapps are hiding. In order to save Raste, Algin comes forward and offers to be their pathfinder across the mountains to the main Lapp settlement. The fearsome Tchude chief accepts the offer, and the raiding party moves out. Seemingly, Algin is on his way to betraying his people, but the determined boy has devised a secret plan that may save them all… if it works.
The film is based on a story, “The Pathfinder and the Torch”, that has been passed down in Lapp country from generation to generation for almost a thousand years. With a battle between good and evil and a choice between right and wrong, the film reflects basic Judeo-Christian principles, such as “Do not repay evil with evil.”
Moreover, if viewed allegorically, Algin serves as a type of Christ-figure who, as one Lapp says, “gave his life that we might live.” Furthermore, when Algin emerges alive from an avalanche at the film’s end, much to everyone’s surprise, one Lapp woman says, “We will always have a pathfinder” which is reminiscent of Psalm 48:14: “For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end.”
In fact, the story no doubt reflects the spread of Christianity into northern Europe and the consequent transformation of the barbaric tribalism into a somewhat civilized society governed by Judeo-Christian principles around 1,000 A.D. An increasing number of European movies incorporate these biblical elements (BABETTE’S FEAST, REPENTANCE, MANON OF THE SPRING, and KAMILLA AND THE THIEF come quickly to mind) as a result of the intellectual bankruptcy of Marxist humanism and the revived search in the intellectual community in Europe for objective values. Thus, the Jewish and Christian intellectual communities in Europe are turning back to the Bible. In this regard, European intellectuals have matured far beyond their adolescent brethren in the intellectual enclaves in the United States.
Technically speaking, the film was shot with the most modern Panavision equipment available. The result is that the sweeping imagery of the original legend is captured breathtakingly, producing a captivating quality. With superb editing and acting, this aesthetically beautiful film will entertain and edify discerning Christians. Incidentally, PATHFINDER was an Academy Award nominee for best foreign language film.
Some violence and blood (not gratuitous); very brief female nudity; and, superstitious beliefs relative to the story