Friday, March 29, 2013

Honourable Mention: Thale

This is part of my attempt to highlight some films that, whilst not vampire films, have some genre interest. It is also forms part of the many interesting films that seem to be coming out of Norway at the moment.

Thale concerns a Huldra. For those unfamiliar with the creatures, the following is from Theresa Bane’s Encyclopaedia of vampire Mythology (p126). The entry is for Skogsfru but Huldra is given as a variant:

Skogsfru (Scocks- FRU)
Variations: Huldra, Skogsra, Swor, Tallemaja, Wood Wife, Wood Woman
In Scandinavia there is a type of vampiric fay that looks like a beautiful woman with long auburn HAIR and a cow tail. It is called skogsfru. It lives in the woods and usually approaches a young man at night while he is at rest in his campsite. It tries to use its beauty to seduce him. While engaged in sexual intercourse, it will drain him of his life- energy (see ENERGY VAMPIRE). On occasion, the skogsfru will decide not to harm the man and marry him instead. Sadly, their union will not last as it is a fay, an inherently wild creature, and will eventually return to the woods. The abandoned husband will slowly begin to die, longing for its touch. It is considered an unlucky omen to see a skogsfru, as it causes madness in its lovers.

Whilst the Huldra would only have to come in the broadest definition of vampire, whilst using a comparative mythology basis, I decided that it was of interest. To be clear, the film features nothing vampiric (and certainly nothing that might denote an energy vampire) but it is certainly a rare beast cinema-wise. So, what about the film?

Elvis is unwell
Well it was a 2012 film directed by Aleksander Nordaas and follows Leo (Jon Sigve Skard) and Elvis (Erlend Nervold), though the film never told us I got the sense that they were brothers (or had been as close as brothers) who had been estranged for a while. After an opening that showed a tape reel with a man’s voice (Roland Astrand) addressing a girl and her scream, we meet the pair. Elvis is throwing up whilst Leo cleans up blood. Leo is part of a crime scene cleaning company and Elvis has stepped in to help out, and make some much needed money.

the baby
We cut to a scene as a camera moves pov through a wood, with a voiceover by the man from the tape. We hear the man suggest that it had been nine years since he found her (the girl he is addressing) and that he should have left her. As the camera moves into a small cave area below a tree, and the sound of a baby crying fills the scene, we move into darkness and then, in a brief flash, we see a baby but the skin is grey. She is clearly not human.

Elvis and Leo
Elvis and Leo are called to a house in the woods. The partial remains of an old man have been found, worried and scattered by wild animals, and they have to find the rest of him and clean the scene up. As Elvis digs through bundles of firewood in the shed he discovers a concealed door. Leo tells him to leave it but he opens it and goes through to a basement area. Ignoring instructions he goes through to another room – a stockroom with out of date canned foods. He again disobeys instruction and enters a further room. This looks like a survivalist den meets a mad scientist’s lair.

emerging from the bath
As Leo goes to phone the discovery through to his boss (and await instructions/inspection), Elvis breaks the rules again and plays with a tape deck – tapes marked Thale are narrated by the man we have heard through the beginning of the film, and he was the man found dead and scattered by animals. Suddenly, from a bath of milky liquid, a naked woman (Silje Reinåmo) emerges – pulling a tube from her mouth. She is cold and weak, it seems, and the men put her on a table. Soon, however, she has Elvis in a chokehold.

Thale, with tail
The film then follows the building of a trust between Thale, the woman, and the men (Elvis primarily). She does not speak but can hum a tune and later communicates telepathically, by touching Elvis’ face and showing him images of her life. We see her being treated/experimented on by the man who eventually steals her from the facility and takes her to the woods. They live below ground to avoid those they ran from. We hear him say that she physically looks different from her sisters but that is probably an adaptation/survival technique (her sisters are more animalistic, as we will see). A fridge contains a severed cow tail, which the old man cut off her.

impaled by gun
Meanwhile men from the facility now know where she is (later we hear that her unique metabolism – which is controlled by the liquid in the bath – creates a thermal fingerprint that can be searched for and tracked. I assume it is the opening of the fridge, exposing the (untreated for some time) tail, which pings their sensors (we are never told directly). Also her kind are closing in as well…

one of Thale's sisters
The film left much unanswered and probably could have done with some more exposition but, in some respects, the mystery made it more interesting. There is a side story about Elvis and Leo and the secrets they keep from each other. We do get some lore – beyond the tail, the telepathy and the strange metabolism. Thale is said to be able to elicit empathy to the point that a man will do anything to help her, that is akin to what Bane says about a Skogsfru seducing a young man. We see her take a dead blossom in her hand and, closing it over the flower, somehow causes the flower to become alive and in bloom again. This is energy manipulation but giving rather than taking; there is no evidence offered of her, or her sisters, draining anyone.

So, an unusual creature, an unusual film. It isn’t perfect but I rather like it. I would have preferred it to have soft coded subtitles on the UK DVD rather than the hardcoded ones included, but that’s just me.

The imdb page is here.

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