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.
Set in medieval Iceland, The Juniper Tree follows Margit (Björk) and her older sister Katla (Bryndis Petra Bragadóttir) as they flee for safety after their mother is burned to death for witchcraft. Finding shelter and protection with Johan (Valdimar Örn Flygenring), and his resentful young son, Jonas (Geirlaug Sunna Þormar ), the sister’s 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 films, 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, The Juniper Tree is a major rediscovery for art house audiences.
Special features / extras
Restored in 4K and presented in High Definition
New feature commentary by Icelandic cultural scholar Dr Guðrún D Whitehead
Still (1978, 4 mins), Hinterland (1981, 25 mins), Aves (1998, 7 mins): three remastered short films by Nietzchka Keene
Video interview with cinematographer Randy Sellars (2019, 29 mins)
Archival video interview with Nietzchka Keene (2002, 15 mins)
Outtakes from The Juniper Tree (5 mins)
The Witch’s Fiddle (1924, 7 mins): a British folk rarity from the BFI National Archive
Iceland – The Land of Ice and Fire (1929, 22 mins): little-seen footage of Iceland from the silent cinema era
US theatrical trailer