Thale is based on the Scandinavian legend of the hulder. A huldra (the plural is hulder) is a female forest creature who has the ability to shift shape to lure young men into the forest (think a siren of the forest). Thale takes a slightly different approach to the usual “monster in the woods who eats people”.
The film follows Leo and Elvis played by Jon Sigve Skard (Hidden) and Erlend Nervold (Sirkel) respectively who are a cleaning company specialising in cleaning of crime scenes. Whilst Leo seems cut out for this life, a taciturn man who gets on with the job and does it well, Elvis is entirely unsuited for the gory work, when we first meet them cleaning up after a dead woman Elvis spends the entire time throwing up, adding to the mess rather than cleaning it. On their next job to tidy up after the death of an old man in the woods who has been dead for some time and partly eaten by wild animals the two discover a secret room. Leo, like a sensible person says they should wait for the authorities but Elvis has a different idea and not only goes down the stairs but through a series of underground rooms, touching things at will.
In the subterranean complex the two discover lots of out of date canned food before finding a more ominous room papered with pages from an encyclopaedia of human anatomy containing (amongst other things, a fridge, tape recorder and a bath filled with a milky liquid). It is from this bath that Thale rises from. Thale appears to be a very attractive, traumatised, mute young woman played by Silje Reinåmo (Patriot Act). It is clear from the start and her appearance from the milky bathtub that there is more to Thale than meets the eye but it is not until near the end of the film that the whole story becomes clear. Thale is a huldra of legend who was rescued by the deceased old man and hidden from the world in the remote underground rooms.
At 76 minutes long Thale is pretty short but it doesn’t feel rushed and being so compact doesn’t suffer from any dead or unnecessary scenes that can plague longer films. The whole film has a pared back feeling, with no accompanying soundtrack and a very small cast with only three main characters and maybe five or so supporting cast members meaning that the film is heavily reliant on the acting ability of three relatively unknown actors, which luckily is very good. Writer and director Aleksander Nordaas (Sirkel) does a marvellous job spreading the plot throughout the film, giving the audience just enough for them to guess what is happening without spoon feeding.
I would recommend Thale to both fans and non-fans of horror films as Nordaas’s eerie fairy tale stays with you for hours after watching.
Fun Fact: Director Nordaas has previously worked with both Skard and Nervold on several films including his first feature-length film, Sirkel which in English translates as ‘Circle’, a film I will be looking out for after watching Thale. Nordaas has also previously worked with Reinåmo on a short film called Bak lukkede dører (or ‘Behind Closed Doors’).