Keene films the supernatural tale of timeless rusticity with fanatical attention to the barren and craggy seaside setting; her stunningly spare yet phantasmagorical images fuse the forces of nature with the spirit of mystery.
— Richard Brody, New Yorker
The Juniper Tree
Set in medieval Iceland, The Juniper Tree follows Margit (Björk in a riveting performance) and her older sister Katla (Bryndis Petra Bragadottir) as they flee for safety after their mother is burned to death for witchcraft. Finding shelter and protection with Johan (Valdimar Orn Flygenring.), and his resentful young son, Jonas (Geirlaug Sunna Thormar), the sisters help form an impromptu family unit that’s soon strained by Katla’s burgeoning sorcery. Photographed entirely on location in the stunning landscapes of Iceland in spectacular black-and-white by Randy Sellars, The Juniper Tree is a deeply atmospheric film, evocative of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Day of Wrath and Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, and filled with indelible waking dream sequences (courtesy of legendary experimental filmmaker Pat O’Neill). A potent allegory for misogyny and its attendant tragedies, is a major rediscovery for art house audiences.
An unsung talent in her lifetime, director, professor and Fulbright scholar Nietzchka Keene’s stark, stunning debut feature The Juniper Tree is loosely based on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale of the same name, and stars Björk in her first feature film performance. The film premiered to glowing reviews at the Sundance Film Festival in 1991 and led Keene to further direct Heroine of Hell (1996) starring Catherine Keener and Barefoot to Jerusalem (2008), the latter completed after her tragically early death in 2004.
$12 ticket gives you access to the film for 3 days. Need help streaming this film on your TV, check out our stream guide.
Arbelos’ release of The Juniper Tree has been fully preserved in 35mm and remastered to 4K digital video by the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research and the Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation.