(Air Date: Week Of 03/12/97)
Your reaction to "Smilla's Sense of Snow", based on the best selling Danish novel by Peter Hoeg, depends partly on whether you've read it. Movies love to deliver what the camera loves, and instead of the short, wiry, half-Eskimo Smilla of the book, we get lovely, regal Julia Ormond as Smilla, looking only slightly exotic in her sheepskin coat. Smilla is from Greenland, but was unwillingly spirited away to Copenhagen by her father, a Danish doctor, when her mother, an Inuit Indian, dies in a hunting accident. Gabriel Byrnes plays the mechanic who becomes Smilla's lover, and, even though he has the look and feel of the character, don't expect quite the same complexity of character that the novel offered.
The beautiful opening scene on the blue white snow of Greenland, is a flashblack to the 19th. century when a mysterious explosion from the sky creates a tidal wave, setting up a mystery that ripples right up to the present. It's somehow connected to the supposedly accidental death of an Inuit boy also living in Copenhagen, who Smilla has grown to love. She knows he couldn't have slipped on the snow and fallen from the top of their apartment building -- the sense of snow that has made her a respected authority on snow and ice tells her that he was chased off the roof.
Determined to avenge his death, Smilla becomes a thirty-eight year old girl sleuth. Somehow the mechanic, who also loved the boy, fits into the puzzle, and Smilla's father comes to her aid, despite the antagonism of his bratty young girlfriend. Finally, Smilla's search takes her aboard a ship making a mysterious voyage to Greenland. Here her physical mettle and sheer nerve turn her into a sort of female James Bond, and a dazzlingly evil Richard Harris is the perfect arch enemy.
"Smilla's Sense of Snow" is visually beautiful in its brooding way, filmed with both restraint and a rich vein of hijinks, and even if the commercially sound casting of Julia Ormand provides eye appeal at the expense of verisimilitude, she's still an intelligent and feisty Smilla.
Copyright 1997 Mary Weems
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