In an effort to expand the influence of our media input we stumbled across a little gem on Netflix, the 2012 Norwegian Thriller, Thale. We were first introduced to the joys of Norwegian Independent film a couple of years ago when we watched the runaway thriller, Troll Hunter. If you have not seen that one yet, go see it. Now. Since we had so thoroughly enjoyed the first we decided to check this one out. Thale did not disappoint in any way. So far Norwegian films are two for two, so thumbs up to Norway. (No seriously. We want to check out more films from there, so if you know of any good ones, leave it in the comments for us.)
At the beginning of the film we are introduced to Elvis and Leo, two members of a crime scene clean up crew. Things get gruesome early on. Fair warning for the squeamish. Leo is the senior of the two and it is established fairly early that Elvis is filling in for someone else and this is not his usual assignment. When they arrived at a cabin in the middle of the woods to collect the remains of the deceased, they discover a series of evidence that unravels more questions than answers. Starting with the discovery of a hidden underground bunker the two men stumble across a collection of old canned goods, stacks of medical dictionaries and a mysterious young woman hidden within.
I don’t want to give too much away, but the movie is impressive on multiple levels. We were instantly hooked, and the themes ranged from delving into Norwegian Folklore (quite heavily), to the two men dealing with their own personal issues threaded throughout the film. One of the reasons I have always loved indie films is that the filmmakers have little to work with and must choose where they want their talents to shine. Thale is no exception. Set in a small underground setting the film captures the claustrophobic feel that the characters must be experiencing, the tedium, anxiety and confusion of Elvis and Leo is undeniably felt by the viewer, but it is the character of Thale that is the true prize of the film evoking both sympathy, mystery and terror.
The title character is played in brilliant form by the mesmerizing Silje Reinamo. What struck me the most about her performance is how much she says without saying a word. Traumatized by her ordeal she remains for the most part mute throughout, unable to share her story with the two men who find her. Just about every scene that she is in she demands the centrality of the movie with just her presence and expression. She is for the most part of the film, silent, naked and outnumbered, but not for a moment did the filmmakers treat her as anything less than a powerful entity in her own right. Watching her made me have one of those moments in which I wanted to fall into the movie and give myself completely to the story. Unfortunately I could not help but wonder if the film were to become Americanized or remade, how would they go about ruining it, sexualizing the character and making her a victim. In this film Thale is anything but. I shall spare the readers my internal rant.
There is a good bit of nudity but no sexual scenario whatsoever. Filmed in Norway the movie does contain subtitles, but most of the best movies have subtitles anyway. There are some elements of subtle humor. At one point I felt like Elvis was having a Dante moment reminiscent of Clerks. (“I’m not even supposed to BE here today!”) So if you like foreign films, films with strong female characters, Indie films, Fantasy Thrillers with a little bit of mystery, have a look at Thale. You will not be disappointed.
Overall I give Thale a solid 9 out of 10 popcorn boxes.