6 user 2 critic

Vinterland (2007)

A love story about two Kurds in the north of Norway.


1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview:
Raouf Saraj ... Renas
Shler Rahnoma ... Fermesk
Kawa Gilli
Alibag Salimi


Kurdish refugee, Renas, is living in the very north of Norway. In a remote desolate house. In the middle of snowy nowhere. But soon his special princess, Fermesk, will be joining him. Though the couple has never met, they have already fallen in love from looking at each other's photographs and talking on the phone. Their families have performed a wedding ceremony back home in Iraq, and Fermesk is put on a plane. The first encounter at the airport does not live up to their expectations, however. Neither look very much like their flattering photos would indicate. Fermesk is now a much bigger woman, and Renas isn't quite the handsome young man anymore. Written by Signy

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Release Date:

17 January 2007 (Norway)  »

Also Known As:

Winterland  »

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User Reviews

A Warm Story in a Cold Country
17 May 2010 | by See all my reviews

Love. Sex. Betrayal. Redemption. Sound next hot summer blockbuster? Probably. However, the events that transpire in the snow-coated hills of Norway illustrate all of these exciting elements in Hisham Zaman's Vinterland without the sappy romances and explosions. Although more subdued than many hyped Hollywood hits, this Nordic gem manages to grab your heart in only half the time. Despite the lack of enormous production values, Vinterland carries and portrays many of the same themes present in other great Scandinavian cinematic pieces.

The film succeeds is in its portrayal of realistic characters. Renas, who's played by Raouf Saraj, is a Kurdish refugee who has fallen in love with the image of Fermesk, played by Shler Rahnoma. The reality of the situation sets in when Fermesk arrives as an "XXL princess," much larger than she appeared in her picture. Renas must deal with this reality while simultaneously adjusting to the harsh Nordic climate. Fermesk also struggles with broken dreams, as she was told that Renas was a very wealthy man who lives in a castle. Much time is spent in the village's solitary phonebooth, where the viewer gets a chance to enter the minds of the characters as they share their inner thoughts with loved ones and family members abroad. One of the most touching and heart-wrenching moments in the film is the wedding scene, where neither the bride or groom is smiling. The story is quaint and relatable, as we all have dealt with disappointment at some point in our lives. There is a twist further into the film that I won't spoil here, but it adds a dynamic to their relationship that makes it even more intriguing to watch. One fact that deserves mention is the minimal cast required to create this film, as well as the fact that this was the first role for each actor's careers.

One element that distinguishes this film from other Nordic films is its apparent lack of Nordic focus. Other films, such as Bergman's Fanny & Alexander or Vinterberg's Celebration, ground themselves heavily in traditional Nordic components, such as family rituals, observance of holidays, etc. In contrast, Vinterland follows Renas, an Iraqi who appears out of place in the bitter cold of Norway. His expression of Muslim faith is foreign to those who have grown up there. One scene in particular demonstrates this unfamiliarity when Renas attempts to sacrifice a sheep for prayer, but cannot find in which direction Mecca resides. He requires the help of passing Norwegians, who give him quite the stare. Equally foreign is the concept of celibacy that Fermesk exemplifies in her character. She refuses to have sex with Renas before marriage, a concept apparently unheard of in other Nordic films (I'm looking at you, 101 Reykjavik). Marriage in more often seen as a convenience than an act of love in many Nordic countries. For it to be taken so seriously is a definite change of pace for Nordic film.

Despite the radical differences between this and other Nordic films, the story rings a loud and promising moral bell. The film teaches about patience in how the two main characters attempt to relate to one another. Vinterland also illustrates the deeper value of judging character before appearance. The primary tension of the film revolves around the instantly relatable act of dismissing someone based on out appearance before getting to know their inner self. Zaman has created a heartwarming tale that exposes a common human flaw, then forgives it with mature characters. This maturity carries through the film as well, as the writing allows the characters to redeem themselves.

Vinterland is at once a common and uncommon Nordic film. While it may not have as high a budget as other, more popular films, it just goes to show that money doesn't necessarily tell a story. Hollywood can learn a thing or two from Zaman's style of film-making. I recommend this one.

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