Erik Blomberg (director)
08 April 2019 (released)
03 April 2019
Based on an old folk legend derived from Finnish mythology as well as the Sami shamanism of Lapland, THE WHITE REINDEER remains as intriguing as it is haunting.
With its eclectic mix comprised of experimental filming, documentary-style narrative and intriguing traditions, director Erik Blomberg’s fascinating b/w movie from 1952 is a multi-layered concoction of folklore, superstition and an insight into the way of life of Lapland’s indiginous Sami people.
In the far north of Lapland, the young Pirita (Mirjami Kuosmanen, the wife of director Blomberg) marries the reindeer herder Aslak (Kalervo Nissilä). But marital happiness is soon overshadowed due to Aslak’s work commitment as he is often forced to spend weeks away from home. To cheer her up he presents Pirita with a snow-white reindeer before he sets off again. Nonetheless, a white reindeer cannot be a substitute for rhe young woman’s more fleshly desires… Often feeling alone and neglected, Pirita visits the shaman Tsalkku-Nilla to help her out with a potion and formulas (in the opening credits we learn that since her birth the evil is in Pirita) so that she may be desirable to the men in her village by casting a spell on them.
The ensuing scene is one of intrigue and tension as Tsalkku-Nilla comes to realise that Pirita seems to know more about spells and witchcraft than he does! When she starts to beat a painted and drum-like instrument on which a stone is placed the stone begins to move, pointing at a certain symbol on the drum’s painting. The expression of Pirita during the ‘ceremony’ is particularly well captured by cameraman Erik Blomberg (yes, the film’s director!). The symbol demands that the young woman make a sacrifice to the stone god in order for her wish to come true. The ‘victim’ is the white reindeer which Pirita sacrifices in a haunted place called the ‘Evil Valley’. At first her sacrifice seems to pay off as she is noticed by the male of the species not as Aslak’s wife but as an ‘object of desire’. Soon though Pirita has to pay a terrible price for her ungodly act when she transformes into a shapeshifting vampire… although she begins to grow fangs she only ever attacks and kills men when in white reindeer incarnation. The ensuing killings and the sight of a strange white reindeer only reinforces the local superstitions... Realising the devastation her pact with the Stone God causes and fully aware that even her own beloved husband might be in danger Pirita desperately tries to break the deadly spell, but the Stone God might demand another, final sacrifice…
THE WHITE REINDEER is a mix of fairytale horror, documentary and avant-garde techniques that provide a fascinating insight into the lifestyle and customs of the Sami people. We never really see any graphic violence – the camera turns away when Pirita is ready to attack another male reindeer herder. The real horror lies in Pirita’s realisation of what she has become – fangs and all, and that it might be too late to reverse what she has wished for.
The film won a 1956 Golden Globe Award in the Best Foreign Film category. The 4K restored dual format version offers the following bonus material: video essay, audio commentary, archive clips, information booklet and reversible cover.