Thale (2012)

I think it’s important to first of all state that, as my bio describes, I have a massive thing for all thing monster related. So when I heard about Thale, a Norwegian monster movie centred around the mythical Scandinavian creature the ‘Huldra’, I was filled with mixed emotions. I was excited that something I had such an avid interest in had been brought to the big screen, but at the same time, I had the niggling, unshakable ‘can they get it right?’ feeling, gnawing at the back of my skull. I studied Scandinavian mythology and folklore as part of my thesis, so I like to think I know a thing or two about the subject matter. Not only this, but Norway had also given us, 2 years previously, the incredible (and highly true to the legends) TrollHunter. In short, my expectations were high.

Thale follows the story of two men, Elvis and Leo, who run the ‘No Shit Cleaning Service’, cleaning up dead bodies, and god knows what else to make a living. They receive a call about another job, which initially seems routine (very initially, mind you) and quickly goes from routine, to odd, to downright mental. In an old, disheveled shack, they find all manner of recordings, scientific documents, graphs and plans etc. They also find Thale…

Thale (Silje Reinåmo) is revealed to be a ‘Huldra’, a stunningly beautiful woman with the tail of a Cow (no, seriously) who has been raised since childhood by an unnamed and never seen man, (credited only as “voice”) kept in captivity her entire life in an attempt to make her as human as possible, and deny her from her kind. Though he has been successful, she hears the call of her people and longs to run with them. In terms of storyline, there’s not much else to it. Leo and Elvis attempt to piece together her history, why she’s there, and what to do with her.

Let down by the 77 minute running time, the film always feels like they wanted to give so much more, but for some reason, sensed it wouldn’t work, and just kind of gave up.

That’s not to say there aren’t some truly magical (no pun intended) parts to it. Reinåmo plays the role of a frightened woman, unsure of who she is, thrust into an uncomfortable and unknown situation, fantastically. What makes this performance even more special is that she does not utter a single word in the entire film. She is a powerful supernatural being capable of doing a lot of damage, but she’s frail, vulnerable, and ultimately human. It really is the films saving grace.

Erlend Nervold plays Elvis surprisingly well, and quickly goes from the weak stomached, bumbling fool, to the one person who can truly relate to Thale. It’s hard to say that Jon Sigve Skard plays Leo at all, however. If it was fully intentional to have him as a totally emotionless character to offset Nervold and Reinåmo’s characters all the more, it is a possibility. Either way, it’s a thoroughly disappointing performance, and I felt the character had a lot of wasted potential.

In terms of special effects, it was, sadly, one of those films that would have been better if we’d never seen the Huldra’s up close, as computer animation is severely dated and low budget.

In short, Thale is worth a watch, but it’s really let down by some poor character development and an incredibly short running time. I went into this film with mixed feelings, and came out with those dismissed, but with a whole bunch of new ones. Save for Reinåmo’s incredible performance, and admittedly, a beautiful and completely unpredictable ending, it falls short in so many places. It feels to me that writer and wirector Aleksander Nordaas clearly knew what he wanted, and was set on making his film, his way.

I wanted this to be so much more though, and sadly it really could have been.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

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