★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Ove Valeskog
Mareld (which translates to “sea fire” in English) is the latest offering from Swedish director Ove Valeskog (Huldra: Lady of the Forest). It is an experimental folk horror film (add that to my wheelhouse) that attempts to blur fiction and reality and was shot without a script as both a thriller and a “making of” documentary about the movie in the movie with the real actor’s names talking about the experience- it is very meta.
The basics are: a group of actors set sail on a catamaran in the Swedish archipelago to shoot a movie. They are headed to an island called Draugadrotten, where a few hundred years ago there lived a witch who lit fires to lure sailors to their deaths until being burned to death in one of her own fires. Now, she is rumored to haunt the island as a “mare” or spirit.
As soon as they arrive, one of the actors, Nina (Hanna Oldenburg) begins to have strange visions and then the crew encounters a strange military presence made even more menacing because the crew has no permit to be on the island at all let alone filming there. Add that to the goal of communing with the spirit and you can guess that what happens is not going to be pleasant.
Unfortunately, as the film gets into the “good stuff” it becomes hard to follow and confusing which makes it feel longer than its 90-minute runtime and waters down the tension that had been effectively built up.
Confusion aside, this film is gorgeous! I mean, call your travel agents and get to Sweden now, gorgeous. Cinematographer Marcus Moller really shines and it doesn’t hurt that the cast is full of beautiful people who are also wonderful actors that really embody the parts they are playing.
Mareld would pair well with The Beach and Dead Calm for a perfect mix of stunning seascapes and nail-biting tension. It is currently making its rounds on the festival circuit and The Scariest Things will keep you posted on when you can take this trip as well.