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Smilla's Sense of Snow

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Product Details

  • Actors: Julia Ormond, Gabriel Byrne, Jim Broadbent, Tom Wilkinson, Charlotte Bradley
  • Directors: Bille August
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: May 21, 2002
  • Run Time: 121 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000056BSI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,888 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Smilla's Sense of Snow" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Featurette

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Based on the best-selling novel this gripping, suspenseful thriller about a headstrong woman who uses her uncanny knowledge of ice and snow to unravel a taut web of lies and intrigue. When her six-year old neighbor falls from a snow covered roof, Smilla suspects the boys death was no accident. Together with a mysterious lover, who holds secrets of his own, she defies local authorities and begins a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in an effort to uncover the truth.


Based on a much-praised 1992 bestseller by Peter Hoeg, Smilla's Sense of Snow is a film of moody power and boundless mystery in its first half, but it becomes an overblown, conspiracy-laden schlock thriller in its second. Julia Ormond stars as the half-Inuit, Greenland native of Hoeg's book, a loner who is supported by an emotionally ambivalent father (Robert Loggia) in Copenhagen. Apparently perceived as a troublemaker who sees secret plots everywhere, Smilla finds herself largely alone in an effort to discover what really happened to a six-year-old Inuit boy who fell (or jumped) off the roof of her apartment building. Somewhat aided by an ambiguous neighbor (Gabriel Byrne), Smilla investigates a connection between the child's death and the misdeeds of a mining company, a story hook that conveniently ratchets up the action but quickly dissipates the more compelling, introspective intrigue of the film's beginning. Ormond is fascinating, somehow more beautiful than usual through her emphasis of her character's destabilizing conflicts (isolation and a possibly unhinged intelligence). But she isn't done any favors by an unreliable script or by the usually superb Danish director Bille August's chronic problems working in English-language films (including his disastrous The House of the Spirits). The DVD edition of this film includes an original theatrical trailer and a short feature on the making of the production. --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews

He and his mother, both from Greenland, lived in her apartment complex.
Erika Borsos
The casting seems superb and the visuals capture a mood, but I had the sense throughout of a depth of detail and intrigue that was lacking in the movie.
Kiri Namtvedt
Those who did read the book might like the movie better, but will still find it lacking in so much of what made it a good novel.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Themis-Athena on January 21, 2002
Format: DVD
How many words for "snow" do you know? In most languages, there is only one ... or maybe a few, but not many different ones. But the Inuit language knows countless words for snow - different expressions based on its consistency, its aggregate state, on whether it's old or freshly fallen, and much, much more. And snow is Smilla Jaspersen's specialty; it's what she studies and what she knows better than anybody and anything. So when her only friend, an Inuit boy living in the same Copenhagen apartment complex as her is found dead on the pavement in front of their house, she knows something must be amiss; he can't have fallen off the roof, as the police quickly conclude: afraid of heights, he would not have climbed to the roof if not driven there in the first place, and he certainly wouldn't have run to the edge ... as his footsteps in the otherwise untouched snow cover on the roof, however, indicate.

Smilla, half Inuit herself and brought to Copenhagen against her will after her Inuit mother's death, is a loner, a rebel against society, hiding her fears and loneliness under a thick coat of armor of unapproachability and trying to be "rough all over." Unable and unwilling to ever lift that coat of armor, she takes refuge in science - her definition of longing are mathematics's negative numbers, the "formalization of the feeling that you're missing something." - Yet, this movie's Smilla is not the Smilla Jaspersen of Peter Hoeg's novel which the movie seeks to adapt ... although Julia Ormond's performance is not exactly coated with sugar, she is a far cry from the book's 37-year old woman who hates her Danish father for tearing her from her Greenlandic roots and open skies, and who hates the confines of the society in which he has made her grow up.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 22, 1998
Format: VHS Tape
When a young Inuit boy mysteriously falls to his death from the roof of an apartment building in Copenhagen, his neighbor (Julia Ormond) sets out to solve the puzzle armed only with the suspicion that his demise was not accidental -- a suspicion arisen from her singular impression of his footprints in the snow. With the help of another neighbor, known only as "the Mechanic" (Gabriel Byrne), Smilla takes on the head of a major mining corporation (Richard Harris) as well as the local authorities in order to put the boy's soul at peace.

If the vehement disdain that its critics have heaped upon it is any indication, then this movie may be a severe disappointment to those who have read the novel -- not too surprising since most movies so based are never as good as the book and vice versa. But whereas films of this nature will usually give viewers far too much information initially, leaving only a story line already surmised to plod resolutely to its conclusion, Smilla metes out the details sparingly. We discover new information only when the characters do and are blissfully kept in the dark about exactly what has happened and why until the very end. Due primarily to a superb story line as well as some noteworthy performances from its principal cast members, the movie grabs our attention from the outset and commands it throughout.

Smilla herself comes across as a complex, intelligent, and resourceful woman although she is a self-confessed loner and perhaps not the most pleasant of people. But by far the most compelling character turns out to be that of the Mechanic. Just as we begin to believe that he is trustworthy, one action after another sends us (and Smilla) back to our initial assumption that this is one ambiguous guy with plenty of secrets to hide himself.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By K S on July 28, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
To say that this film is a Danish X-File (and trust me, I know 'The X-Files' quite well) is to miss the point altogether.
This film, an adaptation of Peter Hoeg's brilliant book, is both a mystery solved by, and a personal journey undertaken by, one remarkable woman: Smilla Jaspersen. Julia Ormond plays Smilla with passion and yet with understatement - for Smilla herself is a mystery, a woman like no other you've met both culturally and in terms of her emotions and life.
Bille August's direction, Hans Zimmer's music, and the supporting cast add depth to this very fine movie.
I don't know what the reviewers were thinking - maybe that they'd get a shallow film adaptation of one of the many mere 'detective' novels that abound. Hoeg's work is literary, not genre, and the essence of the story is more than Smilla's amateur detective work, it is her reaching peace and reincarnation with her Inuit self killed by her surrender to Danish culture, and much more.
Watch this film. It's worth it.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Erika Borsos VINE VOICE on December 11, 2006
Format: DVD
Julia Ormand plays the beautiful sculptured ice princess Smilla who grew up in Greenland but moved with her family to Denmark. She is now an adult who has a sixth sense about events and people. She is walking home from her job when an ambulance drives by, she stops where a crowd has gathered. She sees the body of a child lying in the snow. She knows the little boy. He and his mother, both from Greenland, lived in her apartment complex. The official verdict is ... Esai was playing on the roof and he accidentally fell to his death. Smilla does not believe it. She visits the coroner's office (wondering why an autopsy was required *if* indeed it was an accident). She is told "it is routine." She digs further, as she notes that Esai's steps on the roof are in a straight-line which indicates to her, he was not playing. Children at play run about in different directions. Her father is a local doctor, she quizzes him and ends up with more questions than answers.

A man living in her apartment, who also misses Esai, tries to comfort Smilla. Smilla resists. She later seeks comfort in his arms and they become lovers ... Smilla is given a gift from Esai's mother, it is a box containing a collection of precious belongings, one of which is a tape-recording. Smilla can not make out the words on the tape but takes it to an expert ... A blind man who worked on excavations in Greenland. He interprets the words for Smilla which indicates there was some cover-up by the mining company that had hired Esai's father to work in Greenland. He had died in a mining accident in 1993 but some mysterious event also occurred then which involved Esai.

When Smilla goes to pick up the tape, she discovers the scientist murdered. The door to his ship is locked shut. There is a huge explosion and fire ...
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