Before she was known only by her first name, and long before her awe-inspiring performance in Lars von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark” proved that musicians can sometimes out-act even the best actors, the beloved and enigmatic Björk made her feature film debut in a black-and-white film called “The Juniper Tree.” Based on a witchcraft tale from the Brothers Grimm and directed by Nietzchka Keene, “The Juniper Tree” premiered in competition at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival. Unfortunately, the fantasy arthouse indie never received theatrical distribution, making a new 4k restoration and re-release especially enticing.
As evidenced in IndieWire’s exclusive trailer for the new restoration — featuring stunning cinematography of Icelandic vistas and Björk’s already-honed onscreen naturalism — it’s clear that this vintage work deserves renewed attention.
Per Metrograph’s official synopsis: “Björk, then still the frontwoman of the Sugarcubes and not quite yet an international superstar, plays a woman fleeing with her sister from the persecutors who put their mother to the torch for crimes of witchcraft in this debut film by the late Nietzchka Keene, an evocation of medieval life full of harshness, fervor, and free-floating terror, with DP Randy Sellars capturing majestic, often otherworldly Icelandic landscapes in breathtaking black-and-white, returned to original luster thanks to a new restoration. Experimental filmmaker Pat O’Neill provides the dream sequences to this ravishing rediscovery, a feminist fairy tale that evokes Bergman and Tarkovsky while being at the same time unlike anything you’ve ever seen.”
The new restoration was done by the Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation. Arbelos Films will premiere “The Juniper Tree” at Metrograph for a one-week exclusive theatrical engagement from March 15-21, with a national expansion to follow.
Check out IndieWire’s exclusive trailer of this rarely seen Björk performance below.
And here is the first look at the new poster, courtesy of Areblos Films: