(15) Running time: 76 minutes
Director: Aleksander Nordaas
Writer: Aleksander Nordaas
Cast: Silje Reinamo, Erlend Nervold, Jon Sigve Skard
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
Given the fact that this is Norwegian director Aleksander Nordaas’ first major feature, you would expect some minor issues at least. However, the magical, haunting and totally enchanting Thale is very near perfect. Granted that the CGI used for some creatures living in the woods is a bit dodgy, but this was to be expected, and is such a waste of time complaining about I wish I hadn’t done so. Needless to say everything else about Thale is simply wonderful in every way. I went into this not really knowing what to expect, and came away mesmerized by its beauty and brilliance, and Aleksander Nordaas has now been added to my ever growing list of ‘directors to keep a close eye on’. If you haven’t seen Thale, or have no interest in seeing it but love something with originality and ambition, then rectify that mistake immediately!
Based on Norwegian folklore, Thale focuses on the legend of woodland creatures known as Huldra. Some of these creatures appear as beautiful women, and lure men into their lair, and the only way to tell them apart from humans is their tail. These creatures communicate through the trees, but cannot be detected under water, and this is how we learn of how Thale (Reinamo) came to be hidden from her kind by a desperate man living in the woods. She is found by ‘cleaners’ Leo (Skard) and Elvis (Nervold), two guys whose job it is to clean up dead bodies. They attend sites of the recently deceased, and it is their job to clean up the mess. Hilariously, this results in Elvis throwing up while Leo calmly goes about his duty. Close friends, the pair are our main point of contact through this bizarre and haunting story. They discover Thale in the basement of a man living in the woods, and her being there is told through flashbacks as we learn exactly what happened to her.
Leo and Elvis are great fun to be around, with both adding some light hearted comedy when needed, and also delivering enough emotional punch to remind us of the tragedy of this story. Both actors do a fine job in creating likeable and believable characters, but it is Reinamo as Thale who shines here. She doesn’t utter a word, but her tortured soul and dangerous character are something to well and truly be amazed at. She is mysterious, engaging, frightening and stunning to look at. She seduces the viewer as her character is supposed to, and whether you want to or not, she will have you under her spell. A magical performance indeed, and while the actual design of Thale is a very small and intimate movie, you will find yourself desperate to open your mind and learn as much as possible. Most of the film takes place in the basement, or in the surrounding woods, and the whole set up feels otherworldy, even ghostly at times. There is a beautiful and enchanting atmosphere here that really does draw you in as if you were living in some sort of dark, nightmarish fairytale.
The use of a cello really adds some weight to this gorgeous film, and will help bring on all sorts of emotional ups and downs as the story unfolds. The music makes the film feel cold, sad, uplifting and warm all at the same time, and it is almost hypnotizing in its beauty. Nordaas has created an amazing world here of love, life, desperation and obsession that will linger in your mind long after the credits. The scrip is tight, light but always full of just the right amount of information. Things are not always spelled out, but that is part of the films charm. I have read reviews saying the script needed more work. I don’t think this is fair, the script does exactly what it needs to do, and it is the visuals, the atmosphere, the design and folklore brilliance which will win you over and leave you stunned. The faded colourings of greens and yellows add menace and character to the film, and it is fair to say you will not see anything quite like Thale for some time. A beautiful, dazzling, haunting folklore film for anyone who has an imagination or a heart, or someone who simply appreciates damn fine filmmaking.