Winter silence - Sonja Wyss

Original Dutch film title:
70 minutes

In a village high in the snowy mountains walk mysterious deer-men who visit four young daughters.

In a snowed-in log cabin, a widow lives with her four grown-up daughters, all with their own desires for love and intimacy. The strong Catholic faith and their mourning that has tormented them for years has condemned them to a life of chastity. Mysterious deer-men change their existence.

A man, a woman and their four daughters live in a log cabin in a snowed-in village that lies jammed between high rocky mountains. The catholic faith and strong belief in sagas have a great influence on their daily lives. After an accident whereby the man dies, the woman and her adult daughters are left behind in mourning. At that moment the atmosphere of the film becomes dreamy. A sort of winter sleep.

Deer-men appear. They are figures who determine the duration of the mourning period. The widow wants to be remarried, because a life in the mountains is too difficult for a woman alone with four daughters. The deer-men have no intention to end the mourning period, as they have a secret affair with her daughters. And as soon as they would “release” the widow, the daughters would be allowed to marry.

Separate from the other characters is an 11 year old girl. She symbolises innocence. The girl lies asleep in a simple room. A snow owl sits in the open window and looks into the room. The owl is the witness, who sees and knows everything, but says nothing, and at the same time symbolises femininity.
In another scene the girl is standing on a snow covered mountain top. She holds her hands open. The skies slowly fills with birds, which take off out of her hands, while we hear a song, sung by a soprano voice. The song is about a girl that is tormented by her conscience because she had given a boy a kiss.

In another room of the log cabin, the four daughters are embroidering a table cloth together, which is meant for the trousseau. They each embroider a deer and the embroidering is done in a synchronised rhythm.
Later they sit next to each other at the edge of a bed and whisper and giggle with each other, while they roll eggs with their bare feet. They do this in such a way which can not be distinguished from another daily routine.

Their mother, the widow, looks detached out of a window at the night and moon sky. She sees a group of men in long black clothes with hoods. Each carries an antler on his head. The deer-men walk by her house and further into the mountains. She thinks about her wedding, far in the past.

At the end everything appears to have been resolved. After the long winter sleep, the first sun rays reach the village. The mythical figures have gone, only the antlers lie in the beds of the daughters. The mother is outside and looks at the mountains. She bends over, carefully brushes the top layer of snow away. Snowdrops appear. She smiles.

Gerda Zangger (widow)
Sandra Utzinger (daughter)
Brigitta Weber (daughter)
Katalin Liptak (daughter)
Sarah Bühlmann (daughter)

script & direction: Sonja Wyss
camera: Peter Brugman
sound: Gijs Stolmann
light: Nicholas Burrough
editing: Katarina Türler
sound design: Huibert Boon, Alex Booy & Robil Rahantoeknam
image post-production: Filmmore
music: Wise Man’s Child
executive producer: Ben Bouwmeester
producer: Digna Sinke

this film has been supported by the Netherlands Film Fund and the Mondriaan Fund in the framework of De Verbeelding

Netherlands Film Festival 2008: Golden Calf Sound design
San Gio Video Festival 2009: Logan award