6.9/10
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18 user 3 critic

The Juniper Tree (1990)

Margit and her older sister, Katla, flee their homeland in Iceland after their mother is killed for practicing witchcraft. Needing a place to stay, Katla casts a spell over a young farmer ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview:
...
Margit (as Björk Guðmundsdóttir)
Bryndis Petra Bragadóttir ...
Valdimar Örn Flygenring ...
Guðrún Gísladóttir ...
Geirlaug Sunna Þormar ...
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Storyline

Margit and her older sister, Katla, flee their homeland in Iceland after their mother is killed for practicing witchcraft. Needing a place to stay, Katla casts a spell over a young farmer named Jóhann which makes him fall in love with her, ensuring the wellbeing of herself and Margit. Jóhann's son, Jóhas, sees through Katla's plan and pleads for his father to make her go away. To help Jóhas in his struggle, Margit's mother appears to Margit in visions and provides a magic amulet of protection for the boy. Will Jóhas be able to rid his family of Katla or will she continue to control them with her witchcraft? Written by Todd Rose

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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A Twisted Tale of Witchcraft and Mysticism

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Drama | Fantasy

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12 February 1993 (Iceland)  »

Also Known As:

Einitréð  »

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Did You Know?

Quotes

[first lines]
Margit: Where did she go?
Katla: She became ashes and left with the wind.
Margit: And her soul?
Katla: Her soul... was tied with the heart of a bird.
Margit: And the tread will hold forever?
Katla: Until the bird's heart breaks.
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User Reviews

 
You numbskulls, why didn't anyone tell me how great this movie is?
31 January 2011 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

I can't believe I had never heard of this movie until I happened to see it in the $3 used pile at my local video store. Being a casual Bjork fan I figured it would be an entertaining 90 mins with maybe a few decent songs.

Wow, was I surprised. First of all, there aren't any Bjork songs although the soundtrack does contain some haunting vocalizations that might be her (sounds a lot like the Volta album), but I can't be sure. Secondly, although Bjork is indeed the lead character, the movie is so much more than just her.

It's definitely a very artsy film, so if the phrase "artsy film" scares you, you might want to move along. If, on the other hand, you don't mind long, wordless, gorgeous b&w shots of the landscape and other photo-worthy images, read on.

If I had walked into a cinema that was playing this movie, I might think it was a Bergman film or something by Carl Theodor Dreyer or Robert Bresson. It has that same dreamy, haunting quality and careful attention to visuals. This is the kind of movie that you could take a snapshot of at any minute, hang it on your wall, and people would say 'ooh cool photo'. Bjork is particularly beautiful (in a Keebler elf sort of way), the locations are breathtaking, and the authentic sets add to the film's credibility. The exteriors were shot in rural Iceland, and the interiors were shot in various Icelandic historical museums. Everything we see transports us back to a timeless, legendary world.

You might have heard that this is based on a Grimm's fairytale of the same name, but the similarities end there. The Grimm's fairytale is a pretty straightforward, predictable moral lesson, whereas this adaptation is a complex and poetic experience that will linger in your mind for a long time. Also don't be misled by the DVD description; while witchcraft is a main component, the movie is not necessarily supernatural but instead shows us how belief can bend perception and influence outcomes.

I have to admit it took me a while to get into this film, and many others might also have some difficulty due to its unconventional presentation and heavy pacing. But it really gets interesting in the 2nd half, and I found the ending to be unexpected and provocative.

If you're a fan of the aforementioned directors as well as Jean Cocteau ("Beauty & the Beast"), Bela Tarr ("Werckmeister Harmonies"), Hiroshi Teshigahara ("Woman in the Dunes") and other surrealist masters, I think you'll really enjoy this. Oh yeah, it also has Bjork in it. How cool is that!


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