One thing that I really enjoy about watching foreign film trailers without subtitles is that you can get a feel for a movie without having all of its surprises totally ruined for you. Recently I saw the trailer for “Thale” online, and was instantly intrigued by the image of the naked woman with a cow-like tail. It was beautiful and bizarre in equal measure and I knew that I wanted to see the film. However, sadly, this Norwegian film turned out to be quite the disappointment.
It turns out that “Thale” is based on a mythological creature from Nordic folklore called the “Huldra”, which is what the girl in the trailer is. The film starts with a couple of guys who work as cleaners specializing in the cleaning up of crime scenes for the police. This time they are at a particularly nasty and bloody scene and Elvis is having a hard time keeping has lunch down, in fact he is totally unsuccessful. His partner Leo, on the other hand, seems to have no problem with it at all, but we soon realize that this is just how Leo is. He appears to take things with a grain of salt, nothing surprises or disturbs him, he just deals with whatever comes his way. Meanwhile, Elvis appears to be terrified and stressed about everything and is incredibly uptight. The two cleaners continue to clean the scene when Elvis finds a hidden door and against Leo’s better judgment, the two explore their find. When the door leads downstairs and through another set of doors, Leo decides he better let the police know what they have found. While alone, Elvis continues to rummage and finds a basement full of weird stuff including a tape recorder. He plays the tape and listens to the bizarre rants on it, when suddenly out of the blue, a figure rises from the bath in the room with some velocity. It turns out to be a naked girl, who appears to be quite disorientated by where she is for the moment. In fear, the girl (whose name turns out to be Thale) grabs Elvis by the throat when Leo walks in. As usual he is unfazed by what is going on, and gets the girl something to put over herself. For the majority of the film after this, Elvis and Leo silently gain the weird girl’s trust as she is able to impart some of her history on the guys via telepathy through touch. The boys continue to wait for their employers, but Thale’s sudden reappearance has alerted other strange creatures within the forest of her presence and they come for her, while hunters of the human kind also attempt to catch this mythical creature known as “Huldra”.
As I mentioned above, “Thale” sadly is very disappointing, mainly due to the fact that for a film with such a short running time (77 minutes), very little happens in it. The characters are hardly developed and we only know about them on a surface level, with the exception of one (admittedly good) scene when the two men confide in each other about their lives, that Elvis has an illegitimate child and that Leo is dying of lung cancer. However that is it, other than that we know nothing about these guys at all, and Thale never utters a word in the film.
Director Aleksander Nordaas struggles to build a palpable atmosphere throughout the film and you never actually feel that the characters are in any danger. Suddenly they are just under attack, and it feels very random and unconvincing, and the main bad guy is a total cliché, cardboard cut-out character. Even when it comes to the other mythical creatures in the forest, the CGI is really quite poor and they never feel a part of their environment at all. Especially when the creatures move, they look so fake almost as if gravity does not have an effect on them. While I did like the character of Thale, she is quite beautiful, but nothing interesting is done with her at all. The flashes of her past intrigue but once they are over, you get a feeling of “so what?” with them. That said, I thought Silje Reinamo portrayed the mythical creature very well indeed really selling her feeling of confusion and fear at the beginning, and then of wanting to be understood as the film progressed. Likewise the actors who portrayed Elvis and Leo, Erland Nervold and Jon Sigve Skard respectively, were also convincing and had a good chemistry together.
Visually speaking “Thale” did nothing for me because the cellar-like room where the majority of the film is set (and where Thale is found) is bathed in the garish green colour so prominent in the “Saw” films. It has become such a cliché these days and actually makes a film appear cheap, I guess due to lack of any imagination, and it is so ugly to look at. Something that I did like though was Thale’s hidden bedroom which could only be entered through a small door you need to bend to get under. It was like something from “Alice In Wonderland” and was the only real touch that this could be a fairytale (or folklore) world.
This was obviously a passion project for Aleksander Nordaas because he did almost everything himself in this film; he wrote, directed, produced, was the cinematographer, set decorator and editor on “Thale”, so you have got to respect the guy for everything he put into the film, it is just sadly that the film never goes anywhere narratively interesting and the main attraction of the film, the “Huldra”, is severely underused. For a film that is about a creature that lures men into the woods by humming a beautiful song causing the men to never be seen again, I guess I was hoping for it to be more entertaining than what I got.