''Pathfinder,'' one of five features nominated for best foreign-language film of 1987, packs a lot of excitement into its 85 minutes of running time. It also packs a lot of gore.
Produced in Lappland, the film is based on a Lapp legend that has been passed down for 1,000 years. Done in the Lapp language, the film has a young man, Aigin, try to save his village from tchudes, marauding savages who kill everything, dogs, children and adults.
Nils Gaup wrote and did the direction, and Erling Thurmann-Andersen, the photography. The first is good, the second, startlingly good.
''Pathfinder'' doesn't always hang together. Some action sequences don't seem to match succeeding footage, and for people born in this territory, some of the men do a lot of slipping and falling on that snow and ice. The photography, however, is always so sharp, so clean that you don't mind the physical lapses.
Stripped of its snow, the costumes and the weapons, ''Pathfinder'' plays like a western. The good guys wear white, and the bad guys (played by Norwegians), darker clothing. The bad guys kill with knives and arrows, and if the film, at times, seems unnecessarily bloody, that's the way it was in those days, in Lappland, according to this film.
Mikkel Gaup is Aigin, the boy who is forced to lead the invaders to the larger village. Inger Utsi is the boy's sister who is not as fortunate as he, but then no one is really blessed in this film. It looks like a very hard life. The villagers live in what look like tepees, and if the local bears get to the traps before they do, the larder remains empty.
''Pathfinder'' is playing through tomorrow at the Charles. It's worth a visit to the theater. You may leave, content to face the civilization outside the door of the theater. On the other hand, you may wonder how much different our society is from theirs.
** A young boy is forced to lead a band of killers to his people i this 1,000-year-old Lapp legend.
CAST: Mikkel Gaup, Ingvald, Guttorm, Ellen Anne Buljo, Inge Utsi.
DIRECTOR: Nils Gaup
RATING: No rating (violence)
.` RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes