Top positive review
24 people found this helpful
"The way you have a sense of God, I have a sense of snow."
on 25 July 2004
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