The White Reindeer
the white reindeer | erik blomberg | mirjami kuosmanen | kalervo nissila | ake lindman | drama | fantasy | shapeshifter | mythology | ritual | finland | vampire | winter | jouni tapiola | arvo lehesmaa | matti haapamaki | tyyne haarla | pentti irjala | edvin kajanne | fairy tale
Film: The White Reindeer (Valkoinen peura)
Director: Erik Blomberg
Writers: Erik Blomberg and Mirjami Kuosmanen
Starring: Mirjami Kuosmanen, Kalervo Nissilä and Åke Lindman
This is a movie that I heard about through podcasts originally. The idea sounded interesting so it went on a list to check out. For December on Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast, I like to do winter-based movies. This one also doubled as a Trek through the Twos as well as being from 1952.
Synopsis: a newlywed woman goes to the local shaman to get help with her love life, but instead she gets turned into a white reindeer vampire.
We start this off with a song while seeing a barren, snowy landscape. The song is telling the story that we are going to see. Part of it that I wanted to point out is that it says about a girl born a witch. We then see a woman traversing the land, Pirita (Mirjami Kuosmanen). It then shifts over to a community of people. There looks to be a race where reindeer are pulling people in sleds. We see that she is vibing one of the men, Aslak (Kalvero Nissilä). The two soon marry.
Things don’t go as she planned. Aslak is a reindeer herder and he’s gone for long stretches. She is lonely. She decides to seek the aid of a shaman. He goes by Tsalkku-Nilla (Arvo Lehesmaa). Something goes awry during their meeting and in the end, he tells her to seek out the stone god and pray to him for help. She does, but it doesn’t necessarily give her the results that she wants. It makes her irresistible to men. It also makes her into a shapeshifter. She then starts to take on the form of a white reindeer. The curse that comes with this is to feed on the men who come after her.
There are mysterious deaths that put the community into fear. The men know that the victims were going after this rare, white reindeer and that it is cursed. They also believe that a witch is behind it. To save their people, they decide it needs to be killed. What they don’t realize is that it is one in their community.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap as this doesn’t have the deepest story. It is interesting that I saw this played at Cannes Film Festival during its release. It also won best Fairy Tale feature as well. That is the best way to describe this. The song in the beginning sets that tone and with how things play out, there is a cautionary tale this is trying to relay.
I think that is also where I’ll start then with delving into this movie. We see this couple meet and then fall in love. They get married and things should be perfect from there. Aslak is gone for long stretches. There were scenes that I saw where I thought due to this, Pirita cheats on him. Looking at a recap of the movie, I think that scene shows Pirita’s mother of Maarita. They’re played by the same person. It makes me wonder the purpose of that scene now. Regardless, I like this idea of being thankful for what you have and not meddling. By doing so, Pirita makes things much worse for herself.
Going along with this, I want to go over to the fairy tale aspects. This is supernatural, of course. Pirita goes to see the shaman. He knows there is something different with her. I thought that was a good scene. It is interesting as well that the ‘stone god’ gives her the power that she wants. It comes at a price that she now must live off the blood men that come after her. It also forces her to change into a white reindeer. What is interesting here is that I’ve never seen a ‘were-reindeer’ film before so that was different. This is like vampire lore in that at first, she loves it. That goes away though which I thought adds a layer here as she fears being killed. There is also a bit of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’, that she can no longer control it either.
Where I’ll go then would be acting. I thought that Kuosmanen was good as our lead. First, I think she is attractive. I think that is needed for this role. What I like is that she seems like a good person until she is ‘tainted’ with this curse. That is where I think the best part of the performance comes out. She is embracing the evil until it becomes too much. That worked for me. I’d then say that Nissilä was solid as her husband. I liked Lehesmaa as the shaman. The rest of the cast also rounded this out for what was needed as well.
Then the last things to go into would be with the filmmaking. I love the cinematography here. The landscape just feels cold and barren. You can see that life is hard here. The shots look good. They don’t anything that is too different, but I think they capture good things. There aren’t a lot in the way of effects. It doesn’t necessarily need them. Everything they do are in camera. Other than that, I’d say the soundtrack worked for what was needed. Something creepy this does is with the design. Hearing Pirita’s laughter when it is disembodied is great. I was a fan there. I did want to say that this is a slow burn. I think part of that is the time it was made. I did find the pacing to help make this feel eerie in an effective way.
In conclusion, this is an interesting movie. I knew just a bit coming in and wasn’t disappointed. This has a fairy tale feel to it that I enjoyed. There is a bit of a cautionary story as well that I’m a fan of. I thought that acting was good. This looks great and they do good things for the atmosphere with the sound design. I could have done with a bit more, but we are still early in cinema. I can see how this influenced things that came after it for sure. Worth a viewing if you are into foreign cinema and want to see a bit more of the history.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10