XLrator Media is in the middle of its rollout for writer/director Aleksander Nordaas‘ Thale. It opens in theaters tomorrow and hits DVD/VOD on April 23rd. I was surprised by the film, which takes an intimate look at a mythical creature in an intense, confined space. I recently hopped on the phone with Nordaas to talk about his approach to working in such a tight spot, whether or not he grew up with the lugend of the Huldra and how he coaxed such a visceral performance out of Thale herself, Silje Reinamo.
Starring Morten Andresen, Erlend Nervold, Jon Sigve Skard, and Silje Reinamo as Thale, “Two crime-scene cleaners discover a mythical, tailed female creature in a concealed cellar. She never utters a word, unable to tell her story, but the pieces of the puzzle soon come together: she’s been held captive for decades for reasons soon to surface.”
What’s your approach to setting the bulk of the action in a contained environment? It has to be a challenge to make that consistently engaging.
We were kind of forced to keep it in a contained environment. Being a low budget film we had to keep our locations to a minimum so to adapt we wrote the film according to the locations we had available. So that basement you see is actually my father’s basement. The first challenge we had was financial. And we had to make sure we weren’t boring people.
I really liked the chemistry between the two male leads – Erlend Nervold and Jon Sigve Skard. Did they pop into those roles as you hoped the characters would in the script?
They’ve known each other for years and I’ve known them for years. So we’re all pretty much buddies and the characters were written for those two actors and I knew how to play their chemistry together. They’re not like that in real life – but I knew they could pull it off together.
And Silje Reinamo is required, as Thale, to do a lot without speaking. How did you work with her to shape that?
It was a challenge. In an early draft we actually had a couple of lines for her to make it easier but we discovered when we started shooting that it would be better not to. So before each scene and each shot we would have to say what we wanted to say with only her facial expressions. And she has a lot to get across with just her face, and I don’t think there are too many actors who could pull that off. While also being in the nude.
What was it like for her to be in that tub? It seems like it could get unpleasant being submerged all day.
She didn’t fall in love with the bathtub, I would say. And those scenes were shot in the basement and it was mid-winter. It was very, very cold in the basement and we had to have hot water ready to not have her freeze to death while we were shooting. And of course we had to put milk in the bathtub as well and she had to wear lenses to dive in over and over, so she struggled with it. But, in the end, she pulled it off.
How did the idea for this come about? Were you into the myth of the “Huldra” as a child? Or did it come about in a different way?
A little bit of both, actually. I loved the Huldra folklore, and Norwegian folklore in general, from when I was little. But the Huldra was my favorite folklore creature, so I knew I wanted to make something about her but we had to go about it a little differently – we had to make her our own. Make our own folklore story.