DVD Review: SNOWMAN'S LAND Chills the Soul As It Dryly Tickles the Funnybone

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, USA (@peteramartin)
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DVD Review: SNOWMAN'S LAND Chills the Soul As It Dryly Tickles the Funnybone

Walter is in trouble. He killed the wrong man, and then had to kill the right man, and now his boss is mad at him for creating a mess, and so Walter is sidelined for the moment. His friend Francois suggests that Walter fill in for him on a job that will take him away to a mountain retreat, where he can enjoy the peace and quiet and build snowmen, one week tops, good money.

But things are never quite that easy for professional assassins.

Snowman's Land features oddball characters and an unusual narrative trajectory, coupled with a great sense of visual style. Tomasz Thomson, who wrote and directed, apparently only has one feature film to his credit -- 2001's Silent Storm (Stiller Sturm) -- but he displays a sure command of his craft, with his skills as a screenwriter and director about equally balanced.

Immediately captivating with an off-kilter tone, the film's greatest challenge is figuring out what to do with stock situations. Thomson's solution is to reset the narrative every so often, pausing the action for a narrated explanation and then revealing another aspect of the story, or, alternatively, peeling away entirely to present a different point of view.

As played by Jürgen Rißmann, Walter is a hangdog hitman with good instincts for survival. On the snowy road to the mountain retreat, he picks up Micky (Thomas Wodianka), an obnoxious live-wire who is fated to cause trouble. When they arrive at the isolated retreat, they are treated inhospitably by Sibylle (Eva-Katrin Hermann), who makes them wait outside in the cold for hours.

Sibylle is the girlfriend of Berger, the notorious gangster for whom Walter and Micky are to do some kind of job. But Berger has not returned from a hunting trip, and Sibylle soon leaves the premises, forcing Walter and Micky to kill time. Eventually Sibylle returns, and, later, so does Berger, and the situation progressively becomes more and more dangerous for Walter.

The humor is extremely dry, and is more apt to make one smile than bust out laughing. The inventive script and the sharply-defined visuals maintain interest, however, all the way through a few twists too many.

The Disc:

My A/V equipment is not state of the art, but to my eyes, Music Box Films has released a DVD that looks quite good, with fabulous colors and a very steady picture. Special features are minimal, but this is a DVD that's well worth renting.

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