Friday, 11 October 2013

Representing Finland: The White Reindeer (1952)


Dir. Erik Blomberg

Falling in love and marrying, the wife of a hunter enquires about a ritual to make him fall in love with her even more, hesitant since he is continually out for long periods to hunt. The ritual however leads to disastrous consequences of her continually turning into a white reindeer, which entices hunters to try and catch her, only for her to turn back with fangs and kill them. As people in her village die, slowly it leads to tragedy. The film is not that long, brisk in its running time, and tells this story with immense amount of engagement. The different environment, of the snow covered Finnish lands, adds a freshness to this film, seeing the country's traditional culture through this supernatural tragedy and being able to appreciate it. Erik Blomberg uses the environment to its full advantage too. The village community is very close knit, small, where increasing amounts of death from sinister causes would bring anxiety to them more so, and the vast white landscape is isolating, able to be lost in it or pulled away from other people to die alone within it.


Aside from this, it's just an alright film. It's no way near the best take on this idea, of love broken by the curse of bestial transformation, but The White Reindeer is still good. This does actually make it difficult to write a lot about the film because of how small it is, so rigidly concentrated it is on just depicting its story. It could be a flaw of the film that it leaves little space for tangents that stand out, or a flaw in me for being unable to go into more detail about the virtues that are there. Probably the biggest flaw with the film is that it does so well in merely telling the story that it loses out on the potential elaborate artistry that could have made it a great film too. But as the Finnish entry for this series, the obsession with using supernatural and horror cinema to look back on traditional culture and folk law has always revealed itself in films defined by various countries, including my own, and it's very interesting and distinct with the better examples like this. The ominous aspects, the bestial aspects having a physical affect on the heroine's appearance, the shrine she conducted the ritual at littered around with reindeer skulls and bones, mix with the basic aesthetics of the period of the clothes, the everyday activities of the people and the relationships with fascinating effect. You can probably learn more about a country through films like this than other mainstream entertainment or news documentary. The White Reindeer, melancholic and ultimately sad by its end credits, shows a great deal of Finland, even if the film's short and to the point, and makes you wish you could see more.


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