Director/Screenplay/Photography – Aleksander L. Nordaas, Producer – Bendik Heggen Strønstad, Music – Raymond Enoksen & Geirmund Simonsen, Visual Effects – Storm Studios (Supervisor – Morten Jacobsen). Production Company – Euforia/Yesbox Productions/Filmfondet Fuzz
Erlend Nervold (Elvis), Silje Reinåmo (Thale), Jon Sigve Skard (Leo), Morten Andresen (White Dressed Man), Sunniva Lien (Young Thale)
Elvis and Leo are forensic cleaners for the police. They are sent to a cabin in the woods to find the missing parts of a corpse that has been devoured and scattered by wild animals. Searching in the dead man’s shed, Elvis finds a hidden entrance that leads down to a cellar hideaway. As they search, they are startled when a naked, unspeaking girl emerges from hiding beneath the water in a bath. They discover from tapes left by the owner that her name is Thale and has been kept prisoner there since the man abducted her in the 1980s. As they try to make sense of the girl, they also become aware that she is not entirely human.
This fascinating Norwegian film is a second feature film for director Aleksander L. Nordaas. Nordaas had previously made the low-budget non-genre Sirkel (Circle) (2005) and several short films, as well as having published a horror e-book Kadaver (2009). Nordaas raised the funds for Thale himself, shooting the film in his father’s basement and conducting most of the behind-the-camera tasks himself. The resulting film gained some good festival word of mouth and was picked up for US theatrical release. Nordaas bases the film on the Scandinavian legend of the huldra or hulder, which is usually depicted as a naked woman of extraordinary beauty but with an animal tail. The hulder lead secretive lives in the woods, occasionally emerging to lure men to have sex so that they can produce children.
The first twenty minutes or so of Thale are a superb piece of scene setting. We follow the two crime scene cleaners as they venture down into the cellar, which is half-lit and covered in artfully arranged filth and debris everywhere they look. There is a sense of brooding in every shot, of building towards the feeling that anything could happen – before the abrupt and quite outre shock where the naked Silje Reinåmo erupts out of the bath wearing what looks like a gas mask over her face. The subsequent scenes with the two men puzzling over who and even what she is and the half clues on the tapes about what the scientist did in the past create an atmosphere that is compulsively fascinating. Aleksander L. Nordaas throws up at least one extraordinarily fantastique shot where we see Silje Reinåmo sitting naked with her back to the camera with a tail twitching from the base of her spine. In the role of the hulder girl, Silje Reinåmo gives a sympathetically fearful and alien performance, delivered with almost no dialogue.
On the other hand, you suspect that Thale would have made a great twenty minute short film but its set-up feels extruded when it is stretched to fill more than that. After the first twenty minutes venturing into the lair and discovering the girl, the rest of the film consists of not a huge amount more than the three characters just sitting around the cellar. We spend much of the rest of the film waiting for something to happen. The payoff for such great atmosphere and build-up is somewhat disappointing.
The film does pick up in the last few minutes where it abruptly explodes into action – you suspect that the filmmakers have finally thrown some cliche evil military in to give the film some action and create a dramatic conclusion. Here Aleksander L. Nordaas pulls off some extraordinary things during the scenes where Silje Reinåmo erupts out of the bath to take out the soldiers, which is shot in breathlessly stilled slow-motion and full of abrupt and unexpected moves that take your breath away. Aleksander L. Nordaas demonstrates some amazing things during these scenes and I would certainly be highly interested to see what it is that he does next.