on 24 April 2013
This is the 1987 Norwegian film ICE PALACE, directed by Per Blom from the novel by Tarjei Vesaas. It concerns two 12-year-old schoolgirls who are introduced to us naked (in a very sensitive depiction of their barely understood pubescent feelings) before one of them later wanders (fully dressed against the cold) into an ice cavern behind a frozen waterfall and disappears. A search is mounted to look for her...
Some film enthusiasts may recognise this as an inverted northern hemisphere counterpart to the southern hemisphere PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK. It is a beautifully atmospheric, haunting film.
So why only 3 stars?
The problem lies with this edition from Daakshop. First, the facts:
This is the Norwegian version with English subtitles. The disc has a pictorial label and comes in a standard DVD case with a cover with English text (NOT the one illustrated). It is all-region NTSC.
Now the bad news:
1. There is no indication on the cover as to the publisher of this edition. Its origin is unknown.
2. The transfer appears to have been made from either an off-air source or a VHS tape and is consequently unsteady and of poor definition (though not entirely dreadful).
3. The picture suffers from the "stuttering" effect on motion which is often associated with transfers from PAL to NTSC. Even a slow movement, such as the turning of a head, jerks badly.
4. The non-removable English subtitles are set so low in the frame that many TV sets will cut off half the lettering.
5. There are no extras, although there is chaptering (15 scene selections).
6. It is relatively expensive.
It just so happens that there is an alternative version available from a company that actually calls itself Is-Slottet, but even here there is good news and bad news. First, the bad:
1. The Is-Slottet disc is sourced from exactly the same tape as the Daakshop disc, and the visual quality is identical.
2. The Is-Slottet disc has a plain white label with only the title on it, and is supplied in a plain paper sleeve - no case or cover.
Now the (relatively) good news:
1. The frame-stutter on movement, though still present, is not as severe as on the Daakshop disc.
2. The optional English subtitles are set higher in the frame, so there is no danger of cut-off.
3. There is chaptering (12 scene selections), set-up options (subtitles on or off, stereo or surround sound) and
even "extras", though these are minimal - just a brief plot synopsis and one photo of each of the young
4. The Is-Slottet edition costs a third of the price of the Daakshop edition.
Neither option is exactly satisfactory, so one big question still remains: why isn't this superb film available in a properly authorised edition made from original master materials?