By Dirk Sonniksen | March 1, 2011
Director: Johannes Nyholm
Of the dozen or so films shown at the Austin Nordic Film Festival, I would not have guessed that a short would turn out to be my favorite, but indeed, it is so.
From Sweden, Johannes Nyholm’s Dreams from the Woods is only nine minutes in length, yet the imagery is so mesmerizing, that from beginning to the end, I lost track of space and time. I remember turning to my colleague and muttering, “This is brilliant,” and wanting to kick myself for interrupting such a wonderful high. Dreams from the Woods is the kind of short jaunt that awakens those sensory devices in the brain and takes one on a peculiar journey.
The film is simple, or at least that is the way I wanted to view it (Dreams from the Woods really should not be analyzed—just go with it baby). It’s a little girl and a big bird, operated by sticks someone is controlling from above. The little girl gets lost and embarks on an adventure of sorts, and there is this package that keeps popping up, but beyond that, I really have no idea what in the hell is going on, and I don’t care. It’s this strange interplay between the girl and the bird that makes everything so surreal, and yet, quite touching.
Combined with our two main characters is a world constructed from odds and ends that come to life to create a lush backdrop of wind, clouds, hills and valleys, oceans, and yes, even tears. Nyholm creates a world that is so tangible, that there were moments when I felt as if I could somehow cross the threshold of what was real and what was fantasy and enter the story.
To add to the overall vibe, the entire nine minutes is filled with quasi-psychedelic-ambient music. It’s as if Eno and Enya had a baby, but the baby was abandoned, but then brought up by The Edge as its surrogate father…in his more morose state of mind. At first, I was hesitant about the soundtrack, but ultimately, it was the perfect score for this dreamlike film.
I am not often allowed the opportunity to view short films, but after watching Dreams from the Woods, short films are all I want to see. While feature-length films can certainly transform reality to a certain extent, their overall effect is often too long lasting, particularly when dealing with delicate subject matter. Dreams from the Woods (and hopefully others like it) are nice, compact little adventures that alter your chemistry for a time, but not enough to cause permanent damage.