Discovery

Valley of Shadows

Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen

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A young boy ventures into the forest in search of mysterious creatures that eat sheep, in this delightfully creepy Scandinavian Gothic fable from Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen.

An elegant and atmospheric horror film with a decidedly literary bent, Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen's Valley of Shadows follows a young boy, Aslak, struggling to connect with his mother, with no father or siblings around. Left alone with his devastated single mother, Aslak lacks the ability to deal with what's going on. Worse, strange things have been happening in the area. Livestock is being slaughtered, and while the local farmers suspect a wolf, the children are convinced there's something far more nefarious going on.

Beautifully shot by the director's brother Marius, Valley of Shadows evokes the delicate intricacy of fairly-tale engravings, instilled with an acute awareness of landscape at its most eerie, powerful, and foreboding. (At times the film's look simultaneously suggests Homer Watson's gothic excesses and J.M.W. Turner's sense of nature's sublime power.)

Aslak is a child with too much knowledge but nowhere near enough understanding. Exquisitely capturing his bewildered perspective, the film presents details with an unsettling unfamiliarity, as if the adult world were indecipherable and packed with curios and talismans whose functions were simply unknowable. The sparse dialogue, from the understated script courtesy of Gulbrandsen and Clement Tuffreau, only buttresses the sense of wonder. The film builds incrementally as the rational everyday world is gradually enveloped by the thick fog creeping out from the nearby woods. Featuring a spectral beauty and innocence, Valley of Shadows is a sophisticated horror movie dealing with mystery, loss, and acceptance.

STEVE GRAVESTOCK

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