The 1,200-km Salekhard–Igarka railway was intended to link the Yenisei and Ob rivers. Called the Transpolar Mainline, it connected uninhabited outposts along the northern polar circle. Built between 1947 and 1953 under the direct orders of Stalin, Gulag prisoners were used as labourers, a practice common in similar construction projects in the USSR. Šimon Špidla’s film begins in Krasnoyarsk, where prisoners set off on a two-week boat journey to the Yenisei River in the far north. The director employs a minimalist style to document the horrors of life in work camps and slave labour under extreme conditions. Carefully gauged testimonies of those who survived are heard over shots of the majestic river, while Gulag slang reflects the reality of a monstrous Soviet system that exploited prisoners. The ruins of the railway and work camps, swallowed by the taiga, speak for themselves.