XLrator Media // 2012 // 78 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Alice Nelson // May 12th, 2013
Elvis has left the Huldra in the building.
The film Thale (Pronounced Tah-leh), is based on the huldra, a seductive forest creature from Scandinavian folklore. In Norway she is known as the 'Lady of the Forest', and in Sweden, 'The Forest Spirit'. As the legend goes, she is incredibly beautiful until you get a look at her from behind, where her back has a hole in it that resembles an old hollowed out tree (Not so seductive after all, I'd say). The huldra has the tail of a cow or a fox, but if she marries a man in church, that lovely little tail will just fall off. The huldra is the subject of this intriguing Norwegian flick that takes the old tale and transforms it into a current day fantasy.
Scandinavian folklore meets modern day crime scene cleaners, when Leo (Jon Sigve Skard) and Elvis (Erlend Nervold) are sent to a remote cabin for an unusual cleaning job. They stumble upon Thale (Silje Reinamo) a strange, almost animal like woman called a huldra, who has been living in the cabin's basement for some time. Old tape recordings reveal that Thale was a victim of some cruel experimentation, and unbeknownst to her and the cleaners, the people who conducted those tests have found out where she is, and are willing to do whatever it takes to get her back.
Thale is a fine little film that's much like a movie smorgasbord -- a suspenseful fantasy mixed with some drama, and a pinch of humor thrown in as well. The experience rests on the very capable shoulders of Jon Sigve Skard and Erlend Nervold as Leo and Elvis. Although the film's namesake is the basis by which this film is sold, Elvis and Leo are the glue that holds everything together.
Elvis is the more empathetic of the two, the one who makes the strongest bond with Thale after she surprises him in the basement. Since she is unable to speak, the huldra touches Elvis in a moment of desperation, and is able to transmit -- in images -- the horror that has been her life since she was a very young female. Leo is unflappable, nothing seems to send his heart rate above resting, even when he comes down to the basement and finds a wild naked woman with his partner in a headlock. Old Leo calmly hands her some clothes, and gently coaxes her into letting Elvis go.
The men's relationship is what drew me in, even with the wonderful performance by Silje Reinamo. Writer/director Aleksander Nordaas has an underlying subplot involving painful personal issues that both men are struggling with, and he uses the dramatic entrance of Thale to draw them closer together. For most of us, it won't take meeting a forest creature to get us to open up to one another -- but hey, whatever it takes, right?
The performances of Skard and Nervold complement one another wonderfully, with Leo's laid back persona helping to calm an overemotional Elvis, but without Elvis' emotions maybe the pair never make that connection with Thale, and that connection proves valuable to them both.
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer shows the beautiful green landscape of the Norway forests with a wonderful clarity. The Dolby Surround sound highlights the hypnotic language of Norway, and the subtitles are easy on the eyes. You do have the option of watching Thale dubbed in English, but I would caution you against this (I have yet to see a dubbed film that can capture the essence and emotion of the native language). So just put on the bifocals, sit back and get ready to read the dialogue -- you will thank me later.
I have watched quite a few films exported from the Scandinavian countries, and this area of the world is quickly becoming a movie making haven for me. Thale, is yet another wonderful addition to the entry of quality films.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: XLrator Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Norwegian)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 78 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
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