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IFFR 2024 Big Screen Competition

Review: Milk Teeth


- Sophia Bösch’s debut feature film transports us to a dreamlike and dystopic-flavoured universe inhabited by fearful characters who are fighting for survival

Review: Milk Teeth
Viola Hinz in Milk Teeth

Simultaneously presented in a world premiere within the International Film Festival Rotterdam’s Big Screen Competition, the Göteborg Film Festival’s Ingmar Bergman Competition, and at the Max Ophüls Preis Film Festival, Milk Teeth [+see also:
interview: Mona Cathleen Otterbach
interview: Sophia Bösch
film profile
- the debut film by Swiss director Sophia Bösch - tells the story of Edith, Skalde and little Meisis who learn about the importance of sisterhood and the family bonds which can be forged outside of blood ties. At once mothers, daughters, women, wolves and witches, the film’s protagonists must fight for their individuality within a mysterious society suffocated by its own rules. Milk Teeth is adapted from the 2019 novel of the same name by German writer Helene Bukowski, re-transcribing the bleak atmosphere and visceral need to belong depicted in her book.

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The film opens in the thick of a misty, desolate wood where the only sound to be heard, which punctuates the film, is the breathing of a big, black dog. Gradually, amongst the tall trees and the pack of dogs, human forms emerge: two women - one younger than the other - a mysterious child and a group of characters armed with guns. They all seem to be on the defensive, as if the worst could happen at any moment. But who are these human forms who seem to inhabit the wood, fearing its dark power? We come to realise that what’s actually frightening them are the suspicious deaths of animals who seem to have been killed by a mysterious creature which the humans are now hunting. It’s not easy to understand the ties between these characters, but what is clear from the outset is that we’re dealing with a micro-society which is impervious to the outside world, and which is trying to survive in a hostile context of scarce resources. And what matters most of all here is respect for the ironclad rules created to preserve the precarious balance struck by this self-sufficient society.

Whilst, on the one hand, there are those - led by Pesolt (Ulrich Matthes), the most highly respected member of the community - who follow the group’s rules to the letter, there are also those (the vast majority of whom are women) who have built a life on the margins for themselves, tolerated but not included. Amongst them is the protagonist’s mother Edith (Susanne Wolff), a mysterious pair of women to whom the former is heavily attached, and Kurt who loves alcohol more than anyone or anything. Ensconced in the middle of this group is Skalde (Mathilde Bundschuh), who is trying to overcome the stigma inherited from her mother and to earn the community’s respect by showing that she’s faithful to its codes. But the equilibrium which the protagonist has laboriously struck - caught between the need to belong to an uncompromising yet reassuring society and blood (and heart) ties which transcend all reason - is jeopardised by the arrival of a mysterious little-boy-girl-wolf (played by the very young Viola Hinz) from the “fields of flames”. Determined to take care of the creature, Skalde is forced to decide which side she’s on: should she be guided by superstition or her heart?

Telling the story of an other-worldly society hovering outside of time, Milk Teeth explores the possibility of breaking free from an onerous and cumbersome patriarchy, emphasising the power of an ancient and instinctive kind of knowledge which is primarily the preserve of women. Enhanced by high-level performances, majestic photography (Aleksandra Medianikova) which makes each and every change in atmosphere palpable and pays almost maniacal attention to all of nature’s sounds (Gina Keller heads up sound design), the film ensures its images dialogue perfectly with its themes.

Milk Teeth is produced by Germany’s Weydemann Bros in co-production with Switzerland’s Dschoint Ventschr Filmproduktion AG and SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen. LevelK are managing international sales.

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(Translated from Italian)

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