The Juniper Tree | Chicago Reader

The Juniper Tree

The indie filmmaker and linguistic scholar Nietzchka Keene loosely adapted a story by the Brothers Grimm for this 1990 debut feature, a protofeminist fable set in medieval Iceland. Two sisters flee the community that has burned their mother as a witch; the older one (Bryndis Petra Bragadottir), beautiful and calculating, marries a widowed farmer who welcomes her teenage sister (pop singer Bjork) as company for his disconsolate son. But the boy's hostility toward his new stepmother, coupled with the girl's supernatural visions, leads to tragedy. Keene masterfully evokes a dark and fearful age: pagan animism is giving way to Christianity, women are revered as child bearers but otherwise suspect, and no one counts on the dead to stay that way.

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