As White As in Snow

on September 09, 2001 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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After his brilliant epic "Hamsun," about the famous Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun, Director Jan Troell returns to the biographical field. But though the subject of "As White as in Snow" is the much less famous Elsa Andersson, Sweden's first aviatrix, the results are equally compelling. Little is known about Andersson, who died tragically in a parachute jump in 1922 at age 24, except that she blazed a small trail for women. Troell begins his film as Elsa (Amanda Ooms) takes the train to her last performance, and then flashes backwards to the key events of her life. It's a conventional approach to biography but the movie is anything but ordinary.

Troell layers on the details of Elsa's chaotic inner life, spurred by her ambivalent relationship with her father, Svend (Bjorn Granath), whom she can't forgive for beginning a love affair with the head housekeeper, Stine (Stine Ekblad), after Elsa's mother died during childbirth. Because of that scarring experience, which happened when she was a little girl, Elsa's perceptions of sex and death are intertwined, leading to uncertainty about love when she grows older.

Everything in "As White as in Snow" is utterly convincing, from the psychological undercurrents driving Elsa's actions and reactions--she feels most alive while flying--to the complex portrait of her as a genuinely pure but confused soul. Amanda Ooms is superb as Elsa; no matter what her emotion, she always holds the screen. In Troell's hands, the tragedy of her shortened life ends up being more than just an early death. It becomes a stirring metaphor for the vicissitudes of celebrity and the women who had to work harder to succeed in a man's world. With this finely etched, ravishing movie, Troell has done great justice to Andersson's accomplishments. Starring Amanda Ooms, Bjorn Granath and Rikard Wolff. Directed by Jan Troell. Written by Jan Troell, Jaques Werup, Karl-Erik Olsson-Snogerod and Jimmy Karlsson. Produced by Lars Hermann. No distributor set. Drama. German-, Swedish- and Danish-language, subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time:156 min.

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