The Juniper Tree
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The Juniper Tree

Nietzchka Keene, The Juniper Tree, 1990. Photo courtesy Arbelos Films.

“Distinctive, ambitious, and genuinely poetic.” —Los Angeles Times

An unsung talent in her lifetime, director, professor and Fulbright scholar Nietzchka Keene’s stark, stunning debut feature The Juniper Tree is loosely based on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale of the same name, and stars Björk in her first on-screen performance. The film premiered to glowing reviews at the Sundance Film Festival in 1991 and led Keene to further direct Heroine of Hell (1996) starring Catherine Keener and Barefoot to Jerusalem (2008), the latter completed after her tragically early death in 2004.

Set in medieval Iceland, The Juniper Tree follows Margit (Björk in a riveting performance) and her older sister Katla as they flee for safety after their mother is burned to death for witchcraft. Finding shelter and protection a handsome widower and his resentful young son, the sisters help form an impromptu family unit that’s soon strained by Katla’s burgeoning sorcery. Photographed entirely on location in the stunning landscapes of Iceland in spectacular black-and-white by Randy Sellars, The Juniper Tree is a deeply atmospheric film—evocative of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Day of Wrath and Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring—and filled with indelible waking dream sequences (courtesy of legendary experimental filmmaker Pat O’Neill). A potent allegory for misogyny and its attendant tragedies, The Juniper Tree is a major rediscovery for art house audiences. 1990, 4K DCP, 78 min. —Arbelos Films

The new 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative and magnetic soundtrack was made by the Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research and the Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation.

Free tickets for students are available at the box office one hour before Wednesday night’s screening.