Smilla's sense of snow

There's no business like snow business and Smilla's at the top of the heap. No one can pull the flakes over her eyes when it comes to unraveling the methodology of a crime because, although it seems perfectly acceptable to everyone that a young boy accidentally fell to his death from a rooftop, Smilla, having been born in Greenland and had occasion to know the snow intimately, realizes that traces point to something rotten in the state of Denmark. Her relationship with the boy will not allow her to leave the crime remain undetected.

Smilla faces one indifference and hostility after another as she determinedly pursues the solution to the puzzle by attempting to discover the reason for the boy's death. A neighbor known as The Mechanic gains the glaciologist's trust, becomes her lover, and lends support and assistance during her expedition into the unknown. The closer she comes to discovering the sinister truth, the more she is enveloped by danger.

Peter Hoeg, author of the best-selling Danish novel Miss Smilla's Sense of Snow upon which the film is based, demanded in a burst of national pride that countryman Bille August direct the cinematic version of the tale about a girl who is an outsider carrying a very private world inside her head.

Julia Ormond, who appears to travel from one dispassionate performance to the next, seems to have been cast perfectly to play the Ice Queen, enabling her to give a new portrayal lacking any spark of emotion. Gabriel Byrne, although sympathetic, is cooler than usual. Despite a first-rate supporting cast, including such actors as Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave, Robert Loggia, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Tom Wilkinson and Bob Peck, the overpowering star remains the snow. Director Bille August has treated us delightfully in the past with "Pelle the Conqueror," but has left us out in the cold this time despite the dangers, intrigues, and explosions.

Shot on location in Denmark, Sweden, and Greenland, there's lots of snow. Of possible interest to those who collect trivia might be the fact that the Greenlandic language contains approximately eighteen words for snow, but not one damned curse word. I imagine that Richard Harris had to settle for an English expletive when he found himself performing in the most memorable scene on floes since Lillian Gish froze her little hand in "Way Down East".

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett