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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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Smilla Jaspersen, the daughter of an American physician father and an Inuit mother from Greenland, has a sixth sense about the snow. Far more connected, emotionally, to her Inuit culture than to the complexities of modern urban life in Copenhagen, where she currently lives, she insists on living on her own terms, uncompromising, independent, and constantly challenging authority. When Isaiah, a six-year-old Inuit child in her apartment building, "falls" from the roof, Smilla studies the snow and knows it is not an accident. Soon she discovers that the child has been having hospital tests once a month, that his father was killed in an explosion in Greenland while working for a mining company, that his mother has been collecting checks from the company--and that she herself is being followed.
Julia Ormond's barely suppressed anger perfectly captures Smilla's inner ferocity, and she totally dominates this Bille August-directed film. Vanessa Redgrave plays a cameo role, and Richard Harris is a supporting character, but his primary role is to look menacing as he runs the mining company, which has a powerful secret. Clipper Miano, a 6-year-old Inuit, is wonderful as Isaiah, with his sad, little face and his needy reaching out. Gabriel Byrne, as an enigmatic mechanic who never goes to his shop, plays a role which fits the plot, but he himself remains a mystery throughout, despite his relationship with Smilla. The harshness of the Greenland setting, combined with the snow, the bleak grayness of wintery Copenhagen, the semi-darkness of most of the scenes, and Smilla's own remote coldness create a powerful mood and increase the suspense and unease.
The problem with the film, like the novel, is that the psychological study of Smilla, which is the most interesting and best-developed aspect of the story, gets waylaid by pyrotechnics and thriller effects. Explosions, complex medical technology, extinct life forms coming back to life in sci-fi manner, flashbacks of Isaiah's life (designed to tug at the heartstrings), and mysterious ships in the night turn what might have been a brilliant psychological study into a snowbound melodrama. The cinematography is gorgeous and effective, as is Ormond, but neither can save the film from its split personality. Mary Whipple
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on 27 March 2005
Smilla is a native Greenlander living in Copenhagen. Her Mother was an Inuit who had taught little Smilla to hunt on the ice. Her father, an American, brought her to Denmark when her mother died. She resented the change, missed the ice and the way of life of her mother's people. The two things she loves are the vast, open ice fields and mathematics. To the people around her she is prickly and distant. One small boy did succeed in 'taming' her - making her his friend. Then the boy dies. It looks like an accident but Smilla can read his footprints in the snow because she knew the boy and she understands the snow. Whatever the obstacles, she is determined to find out what really happened to her friend.
It's a murder mystery with a small dollop of sci-fi thrown in. There are a few holes in the plot and I found the sci-fi element detracted slightly from the overall believability of the story. The acting is very good though, and I found Smilla's character in particular, realistic and interesting. I've watched the film twice on television and enjoyed it enough to want to buy the DVD. Unfortunately Amazon cannot supply a copy that will play on my region 2 DVD player. I'll have to read the book instead and hope that the DVD will become available in the future.
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on 26 May 2000
I enjoyed this a lot, but it may disappoint those looking for a film that has similar qualities to the book. Julia Ormond is a highly believeable Smilla, and the feel of the varied locations is well conveyed. The basic story line has been retained, but a great deal of plot detail has been dispensed with, even more seems to have ended up on the cutting room floor. What is left is a good-looking, pacey, well-acted, intriguing tale of revelations that suffers less than does the book from the James Bond-ish motivations of the villain but which leaves Smilla seeming much more of a passive figure than Hoeg's heroine.
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on 23 October 2002
How many words for "snow" do you know? In most languages, there is only one ... or maybe a few, but not many different ones. But the Inuit language knows countless words for snow - different expressions based on its consistency, its aggregate state, on whether it's old or freshly fallen, and much, much more. And snow is Smilla Jaspersen's specialty; it's what she studies and what she knows better than anybody and anything. So when her only friend, an Inuit boy living in the same Copenhagen apartment complex as her is found dead on the pavement in front of their house, she knows something must be amiss; he can't have fallen off the roof, as the police quickly conclude: afraid of heights, he would not have climbed to the roof if not driven there in the first place, and he certainly wouldn't have run to the edge ... as his footsteps in the otherwise untouched snow cover on the roof, however, indicate.
Smilla, half Inuit herself and brought to Copenhagen against her will after her Inuit mother's death, is a loner, a rebel against society, hiding her fears and loneliness under a thick coat of armor of unapproachability and trying to be "rough all over." Unable and unwilling to ever lift that coat of armor, she takes refuge in science - her definition of longing are mathematics's negative numbers, the "formalization of the feeling that you're missing something." - Yet, this movie's Smilla is not the Smilla Jaspersen of Peter Hoeg's novel which the movie seeks to adapt ... although Julia Ormond's performance is not exactly coated with sugar, she is a far cry from the book's 37-year old woman who hates her Danish father for tearing her from her Greenlandic roots and open skies, and who hates the confines of the society in which he has made her grow up.
And as the story's protagonist changes in the movie adaption, so does the story line itself - unfortunately, not for the better. Even accepting that it would have been impossible to translate all the novel's subplots and subtleties onto the screen, what begins like a complex, introspective story about loneliness, the loss of home, and the unchecked power and ambition of a group of prestigious scientists, turns into your average thriller in the end - a huge let-down in an otherwise compelling movie.
Nevertheless, Ormond's performance as Bille August's Smilla (even if not Peter Hoeg's) is strong; and so, in all its quietness, is Gabriel Byrne's performance as Smilla's neighbor, the would-be mechanic. Atmospherically, the movie wonderfully projects Smilla's loneliness in the sad, gray skies and wet snow of wintry Copenhagen, as opposed to the crisp blue skies, white ice fields and limitless horizons of Greenland. For these reasons alone, the movie is well worth watching; even if those of us who have read the novel will have to leave aside a good portion of its contents to be able to appreciate the movie on its own merits.
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on 6 January 2015
Sorry guys. This was a waste of money. Ths picture is 4:3. For a visually stunning and haunting film like this it was a major disappointment. On top of that, the picture quality is pretty poor even for an "old fashioned" DVD. Moreover, I can't turn off the Czech subtitles. Perhaps it's possible, but I don't speak Czech and can't navigate the menus on the disc.

I love this film. What I really want is a Region 2 Blu Ray with full picture etc and this was a major let down in pretty much every respect.
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on 14 April 2000
The Empire magazine review on this page could not be further from the truth. First, the film is a faithful rendition of the novel by Peter Hoeg. The characters are true to form in every way and the choice of actors is spot on. Gabriel Byrne is classic Byrne in his role as Smilla's confident (with a surprising hidden past) and Julia Ormond gives her best performance to date of the loner Smilla (cold and bitter to all around her). The scenery is extravagantly majestic, the flows of ice stretching across Greenland are just so... impressive that the widescreen can really do justice by playing on the ability of aerial views from a helicopter. The intro with a lone Eskimo hunter running for his life across the wastes will have you straining forward in your seat and the film doesn't let up - catching you trying to figure it out yourself with every scene until the ending just totally catches you off guard. Fantastic!
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on 27 November 2002
I saw this film not really knowing what to expect as when you see a film with the word snow in the title it makes you think of christma. Well this is not a christmas story. The tale of a child dying and that death being tied up with corporate scandel makes for a compelling story. The cast is fantastic, from Julia Ormond taking a complete diversion from the roles she usually plays, to give Smilla a real depth and soul. The late but great Richard Harris is wonderful as the bad guy and Gabriel Byrne shines as the mysterious neighbour as you are never able to figure out who he really is or whether Smilla should trust him.
This is a wonderful and very enjoyable film!!!!
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on 2 July 2007
Julia Ormand plays the beautiful sculptured ice princess Smilla who grew up in Greenland but moved with her family to Denmark. She is now an adult who has a sixth sense about events and people. She is walking home from her job when an ambulance drives by, she stops where a crowd has gathered. She sees the body of a child lying in the snow. She knows the little boy. He and his mother, both from Greenland, lived in her apartment complex. The official verdict is ... Esai was playing on the roof and he accidentally fell to his death. Smilla does not believe it. She visits the coroner's office (wondering why an autopsy was required *if* indeed it was an accident). She is told "it is routine." She digs further, as she notes that Esai's steps on the roof are in a straight-line which indicates to her, he was not playing. Children at play run about in different directions. Her father is a local doctor, she quizzes him and ends up with more questions than answers.

A man living in her apartment, who also misses Esai, tries to comfort Smilla. Smilla resists. She later seeks comfort in his arms and they become lovers ... Smilla is given a gift from Esai's mother, it is a box containing a collection of precious belongings, one of which is a tape-recording. Smilla can not make out the words on the tape but takes it to an expert ... A blind man who worked on excavations in Greenland. He interprets the words for Smilla which indicates there was some cover-up by the mining company that had hired Esai's father to work in Greenland. He had died in a mining accident in 1993 but some mysterious event also occurred then which involved Esai.

When Smilla goes to pick up the tape, she discovers the scientist murdered. The door to his ship is locked shut. There is a huge explosion and fire ... Smilla narrowly escapes with her life. She goes to hide out at her father's home. She knows the mining company executive is somehow involved in covering up some mysterious event which occured in Greenland and that Esai was involved ...

Smilla sees an argument ensue between a white haired gentleman and Esai's mother at his funeral. It turns out he is the top executive of the mining company for which Esai's father worked. Smilla is certain the mining company is trying to silence her from searching further into Esai's death and his father's mining accident (which she suspects was not an accident at all). Smilla confides in her boyfriend who has a friend associated with a shipping company that recruits for excavavations to Greenland. Smilla manages to be hired as the laundress on board one of the largest excavation ships to Greenland ...

There are many twists and turns to this amazing story before the mysterious cover up by the mining company is solved. Smilla accomplishes her goals with the help of the captain's son, who makes suggestive overtures toward her but who ends up becoming her ally in the quest to solve the death of an innocent young boy. The dangerous game of pursuing the mining company executive and uncovering the truth becomes more intense and harrowing ... Smilla and her boyfriend triumph in the end, with the unwitting help of the Captain of the excavation ship. The spell-binding scenery in Greenland is astonishing. This is the first film ever to be made in the forbidding climate of the most Northern country in the world. This film will appeal to murder mystery fans who love a good chase and enjoy chasing clues that become more challenging and mysterious as time goes on but which come to a chilling and satisfying conclusion.

Erika Borsos (pepper flower)
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 15 May 2013
Is the wonderful repost given by Smilla when asked about footprints in the snow. They were supposedly made by a child who fell from an apartment block roof; Smilla though, has other ideas and sets about uncovering the mystery of the childs death. The delightful Julia Ormond gives a restrained and distant performance which at times is out of reach for the viewer; although her inner warmth is eventually drawn out via flashbacks showing her friendship with the boy. The resulting tale involves corruption, big business, parasitic worms, yes parasitic worms, fantastic scenery, bags of suspense and a bit of, well espionage really. The piece is littered with thespian heavy hitters like Richard Harris, Jim Broadbent, Bob Peck, Vanessa Redgrave and although Gabriel Byrne seemed out of place his acting chops convinced me that he believed what he was saying. It's an intriguing tale with some excellent performances which is probably why I watch it lots.
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on 29 September 2013
I lived in Denmark for a good while and so watching this film took me back to the streets of Copenhagen in some of the scenes! Gabriel Byrne is superb in it and Julia Ormond keeps the suspense going with her fantastic acting. A good movie all in all. I might be bias though as I love all things Scandinavian! :)
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