The White Reindeer

  • 1952
  • Movie
  • G
  • Drama, Horror

Set in Finnish Lapland, this odd mix of folk tale, anthropological fantasy and horror story received both a Golden Globe Award and a prize at the Cannes Film Festival for the best "Mythical Film." In a silent prologue accompanied by a traditional-sounding song, a pregnant woman makes her way through the snow and bitter winds to an isolated Sami village and...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Set in Finnish Lapland, this odd mix of folk tale, anthropological fantasy and horror story received both a Golden Globe Award and a prize at the Cannes Film Festival for the best "Mythical Film." In a silent prologue accompanied by a traditional-sounding song, a pregnant woman makes her way through the snow and bitter winds to an isolated Sami village and dies immediately after giving birth to a daughter. The child's descendents will all be tainted with the "curse of the midnight sun." In the present day, bold, spirited Pirita (co-writer Mirjami Kuosmanen, filmmaker Erik Blomberg's wife) shows off her skills in a sled race, winning the heart of Aslak (Kalervo Nissila). Aslak asks for and receives her hand in marriage, but Pirita soon tires of her new husband's aloofness and long absences as he grazes the tribe's vast reindeer herd in far-flung fields. She appeals to shaman Tsalkku-Nilla (Arvo Lehesmaa) for a spell that will keep Aslak close, nothing the sage hasn't done dozens — if not hundreds — of times before for neglected brides. He advises her to sacrifice the doe Aslak gave her as a pet and mix its blood with earth from the reindeer graveyard. But Pirita carries the midnight sun curse, and the spell goes powerfully awry; she becomes an irresistible siren with the power to transform herself into a vicious white reindeer and kill any hunter brash enough to follow her into the deep tundra. The villagers grow increasingly frightened as one man after another is lured to his death, and rumors that the legendary white reindeer is responsible run rife. Pirita, meanwhile, is horrified at what she has become — more so because she's newly pregnant — and terrified that she may kill Aslak. Veteran cinematographer Blomberg made his directing debut with this unusual film, which unfolds against a backdrop of glittering snow drifts and spindly trees so weighted down with snow that they look like Dr. Suess drawings. Though often awkward, the film includes a handful of images so haunting that they linger long after the film is over, including the eerie reindeer cemetery, a forest of forlorn antlers poking up through the snow, or the moment when Pirita glimpses herself in a mirror, her teeth transformed into wolfish fangs. A must-see for horror completists, and one of the few films to explore Sami folkloric traditions.

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  • Rating: G
  • Review: Set in Finnish Lapland, this odd mix of folk tale, anthropological fantasy and horror story received both a Golden Globe Award and a prize at the Cannes Film Festival for the best "Mythical Film." In a silent prologue accompanied by a traditional-sounding… (more)

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