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A broken family in the Valley of Shadows


- After three shorts, Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen is ready for his feature debut, which stars Kathrine Fagerland in the lead

A broken family in the Valley of Shadows
Director Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen

With a BA in TV Journalism already under his belt, Norwegian writer-director Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen enrolled at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, where he made the short Darek (2009), which received an Amanda, Norway’s national film prize. Now he is back among the fjords and the fjells to shoot his feature debut, Valley of Shadows, in western Norway. 

The family drama will be the second Norwegian feature from Film Farms, “an international film production company based on a farm in Norway”, after Hisham Zaman’s award-winning Letter to the King [+see also:
festival scope
film profile
(2014). But producers Tom Kjeseth and Alan R Milligan also had two films in Un Certain Regard at Cannes: Icelandic director Grimur Hákonarson’s Rams [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Grimur Hakonarson
film profile
– which won the main prize – and Ethiopian director Yared Zeleke’s Lamb [+see also:
film profile

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Co-produced by Teréz Hollo-Klausen, the €1 million Valley of Shadows is described as “a dark metaphysical mood piece” about a broken family in a small Pietistic valley. Thirty-nine-year-old Astrid lives with her seven-year-old son, Aslak, and their dog, Rapp, but Astrid seems quite indifferent to Aslak – she is preoccupied with finding her missing eldest son, and after a young man dies in the village, she is afraid he will follow the same fate. 

When the dog escapes and heads into the forbidden forest, Aslak follows, trying to find him, but gets lost in the wilderness. On his dangerous, mystical journey, he comes across a presence that brings him safely to a cabin in the woods. “The metaphysical element is central to the film,” explained Gulbrandsen. “The ghost follows the traumatised family as an expression of Astrid’s subconscious guilt and emotions. But who did Aslak meet in the forest – his brother or a ghost?” 

Norwegian actress Kathrine Fagerland (the Varg Veum [+see also:
film profile
franchise) plays the lead in the film, which is being lensed by the director’s brother, Marius Matzow Gulbrandsen (also the cinematographer on Letter to the King); they are both co-owners of Film Farms, which has received €135,000 in support from both the Filmkraft Rogaland regional film centre and the Fuzz Film Fund.

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