Nietzchka Keene's The Juniper Tree is an alluring concoction of dread-inducing atmospherics, loose-form narrative, and intentionally opaque thematics. A film which slowly evolves as it progresses into a peculiar and grim study of the human condition itself, one in which by my interpretation seems to have something to say about how the purity of maternal affect and youthful innocence are suppressed and distorted by the cruel realities of life. A mystical, opaque interpretation of a lesser-known Brother's Grimm tale, The Juniper Tree is a salient example of ingenuity-based filmmaking where Keene crafts an otherworldly aesthetic through economic means. The Icelandic topography is an asset to the supernatural edifice Keene constructs, her use of framing, in particular, eschews conventional composition in a precise yet never overused methodology of framing, beautifully invoking an otherworldly atmosphere to this supernatural but lived-in story of witches and man. Tender and emotionally poignant in moments, yet the threat of pain and anguish feel always within reach, The Juniper Tree's late descent into more visceral notions of horror and depravity cannot be stated as unearned or unexpected, as Keene lays the groundwork early with atmospherics in which the beauty and dangers of the natural world are wonderfully illustrated. A grim tale indeed - get it? GET IT?
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