LIFF#5: The White Reindeer (Valkoinen peura, Finland 1952)


Beauty in the arctic

The White Reindeer is a weird amalgam of Finnish folklore and what appears to my untutored eyes to be ethnographic filmmaking. However, a quick glance along the casts’ filmographies shows that most of the cast are actors and their adeptness in the frozen north with reindeer and skis is obviously born of their culture. The glimpses of Sami life are probably the most fascinating aspect of the film from the reindeer races, the weddings and reindeer herding. Director Erik Blomberg (who also coproduced, co-wrote and photographed!) brings visual flare to what must have been a tough shoot. Only occasionally is the mise en scene compromised; for example, at the climax there are already ski-tracks visible – presumably from previous takes.

The narrative, a mythic tale designed to demonise (literally) sexually voracious women, is less than gripping. The startling images make up for the lack and Bergstrom seemed to me to use the top of the frame for more action than is usual. This gave a sense of the immense landscape; one exceptionally spectacular shot was of a herd of reindeer flowing into the distance (below).

Eyes are drawn to the top of the frame by the flowing reindeer

In addition, the transition scene – the cursed woman turns into a white reindeer – uses negative effectively. The soundtrack, which I take to be Finnish/Sami folksongs, adds to the eerie otherworldliness of the images though the sound was compromised by distortion in the bass (cinema’s fault – the Vue, Leeds – not the film’s). The White Reindeer was, for me, eye-opening drama in which the milieux is more important than the narrative.


  1. keith1942

    Re the sound distortion at the Vue screening. I inclined to think it was the source material. Not only was the sound poor but this digital version had poor image quality. I did not find full information but apparently it was not a theatrical DCP but some form of download. It might be a compatibility problem with the Vue equipment. I know in the past that the projection team have had to bring extra equipment to the multiplexes for unusual formats.


  2. keith1942

    I have seen a number of screenings at Vue in the Festival and the only one with sound [and vision] problems was ‘The White Reindeer’. I heard that there were problems with the title ‘November’ on the same day.
    Are there details about the other instances or has there been a comment from the Festival office?


  3. keith1942

    There were problems to my ear all day Saturday at the Vue 11. There seems to be problems with the Festival reporting system. The Festival Production Manager and the Vue Deputy Manager only seem to have become aware of the problem on Saturday. So far as Saturday evening they had not identified the problem and further tests were planned on Sunday. I have not been in Vue since to check.
    The problem appears to be a speaker and only in the bass register which means that it is intermittent and affects films differently depending on the soundtrack.


  4. keith1942

    It is starting to feel like reporting from the front line. So it seems that there were still problems with the sound system in Vue 11 on Monday. A friend saw three titles in there and thought there was distortion in all three. He reckoned also that it is a speaker, at the front and high up on the wall. I have not heard anything further rom the Festival office.
    There is also a problem in the Victoria at the Town Hall. The auditorium there, a concert venue, does not have good acoustics for recorded and amplified sound; dialogue tends to be muffled. Foreign language film are best, unless you want to follow the original language, as they can turn the sound down and one can follow the sub-titles.
    However, this year they appear to be using higher volumes. I gave up on ‘Do the Right Thing’, there was a small audience and the sound just ‘bounced’ round.
    I saw two foreign language films there on Saturday; ‘Birds of Passage’ and ‘Burning’. Both were very good but in both cases the sound was too loud,. In a particular they seem to have the bass set too loud, in a couple o passages with lots of loud bass you could feel the vibrations in the floor or even your seat.
    In Chinese fashion this would be ‘The Year of the Bass’.


  5. keith1942

    Vue have still not fixed the sound problem in auditorium 11. Friends reported problems in two titles on Tuesday and again in another title on Wednesday. All agree that the cone in a speaker is the problem.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.