On Jonas Alexander Arnby’s When Animals Dream (2014)

by Kayann Mitchell

Part of an emerging Scandinavian genre scene known as Nordic Twilight (Let The Right One In, Troll Hunter, What We Become), When Animals Dream is Jonas Alexander Arnby‘s stunning and moody directorial debut.

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The film opens with Marie (Sonia Suhl) visiting the local doctor because of a sudden rash that’s appeared on her chest. The doctor assures her it’s nothing and sets up a follow up in a month just in case. When she returns home we see that her mother needs special care which Marie is all too happy to attend to. We also meet her doting father Thor (Lars Mikkelsen). Things seem idyllic in the small coastal town when Marie gets a job at the local fishery. But things with her body and temperament appear to be getting worse even though the doctor claims nothing is wrong. When Marie gets her hands on some medical files about her mother a mystery begins to unfold. What is actually wrong with her mother, what is happening to her, and why do her coworkers seem to fear and loath her? Can she possibly get these answers without ripping her life apart?

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When Animals Dream is a haunting and atmospheric coming of age tale in the vein of Ginger Snaps. Beautifully shot and subtly acted. The movie doesn’t shy away from sex and death, treating both like the conventional things they are. It’s steadily paced and controlled revealing just as much as need be when the time is right, leading to a final reveal that’s stunning and quietly beautiful. If you’re unfamiliar with Scandinavian genre may I suggest you start with this film, which if you’re in Canada is currently on Netflix.

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