Over the next couple of weeks WHYS is bringing you a couple of snowbound obscurities, and we’re starting with a real doozy. A film even I’d never heard of before stumbling across it recently.
IS SLOTTET [Ice Castle]
Director: Per Blom
What’s It All About?
That’s rather a challenging question, for two reasons. First off the concept here of ’story’, seems to be rather loose at best and second, I’ve so far only been able to see the film in its original Norwegian, with Spanish subtitles (I only speak English). However, from what I can discern 12 year old Unn and Siss (Hilde Nyeggen Martinsen and Line Storesund respectively) go to the same school, and have recently become friends. It’s pretty clear that Unn also has deeper feelings about Siss, though less clear if they are returned. One day, the day after Siss has spent an evening at her house, Unn skips school and goes exploring, stumbling upon a frozen waterfall. Looking around Unn passes out, and is never seen again, the film then follows the search for Unn and Siss’ distress about her missing friend.
Why Haven’t You Seen It?
It’s been out of circulation for years, and is unlikely to ever be re-released in an uncensored form, because there are three brief nude scenes involving Unn and Siss. This means that, though it was apparently once shown uncut on BBC 2, any British release is almost certainly out, which is a terrible shame, because the nudity is non-sexual, brief, and entirely unerotic. It’s also likely that even if released Is Slottet would have a very limited audience.
Why Should You See It?
This is a beautiful film, and though I haven’t seen it with English subs, I understood most of the film, because for the most part dialogue is absent and director Per Blom allows his chilly images to tell the story. The early scene in which Unn suggests that she and Siss undress is a good example of the visual storytelling, with Blom using the camera to show subjectively the subtly different way that each girl regards the other. The snow covered landscapes are gorgeous, most notably the frozen waterfall itself, as Unn explores more and more the ‘ice castle’ feels ever more like its own otherworldly space. Blom lets you go deep into it with her, silently following her for minutes on end, between cuts back to a bored Siss at school.
The two girls performances are excellent, but especially that of Hilde Nyeggen Martinsen as Unn, in one of the few extended exchanges in the film she makes a sweet, moving confession to Siss:
Unn: There’s something I’ve never told anyone before.
Siss: Would you have told your mother?
Siss: Would you like to tell me?
Unn: I don’t know if I’ll go to Heaven.
This is typical of the way the film never QUITE says that Unn is gay, and never QUITE addresses the idea that maybe she doesn’t go to the frozen waterfall just to explore, but these things are better left unsaid, and Blom and Martinsen leave plenty of room for interpretation.
Is Slottet is a very slow film, at times, though it’s just 76 minutes long, and covers several days, it seems almost to unfold in real time, but that’s not to say it is boring, more that the film has a hypnotic quality about it, that the images, the performances and the pace draw you into the film in a quite uncommon and sometimes very affecting way. It’s a strange film, and a challenging one, but one that I liked a great deal.
How Can You See It?
There are various companies that offer imports of burnt DVDs of rare films; you could try one of those. I saw it online. An official release is likely to be spectacularly difficult to get.