Rotterdam 2024 Review: MILK TEETH, Werewolves Or Weren't Wolves?

Sophia Bösch' debut feature film is a well-acted drama which gently brushes science fiction and horror

Editor, Europe; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
Rotterdam 2024 Review: MILK TEETH, Werewolves Or Weren't Wolves?
The International Film Festival Rotterdam is primarily an arthouse festival, but that doesn't mean there is no genre representation there. Indeed, with some titles you get both flavors. Director Sophia Bösch' Swiss/German film Milk Teeth certainly can be classified as such, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale which focuses on the struggle of non-conforming individuals in an increasingly dangerous society.

No explanation is made about what happened to this world (bar a few mentions of 'burned fields'), and we follow a group of contemporary people, all hunter-gatherers and farmers, who live in a forest village. Gasoline and four-wheel-drive cars exist, as do survival gear and guns, but money does not. It is an extremely self-contained society where everything is settled through barter. And outsiders are shunned like the plague. Stories are told about forest creatures who look like humans and who will spell doom for everyone.

IFFR2024-Milkteeth-ext1.jpgIn this society we follow Skalde (Mathilde Bundschuh), a woman who lives with her mother Edith (Susanne Wolff) at the edge of the village. Edith never really befriended the village community, who consider her to be a witch, only tolerated because she was married to a villager. In contrast, her daughter Skalde is a respected member, and friends with the community's elder leader Pesolt (an excellent Ulrich Matthes).

Then, one day, two strange things happen: a young girl shows up at Skalde's house, just walking in out of nowhere, refusing to speak about her past. And one of the village's sheep is found in the forest, slaughtered. The villagers jump to conclusions and decide the girl must be a 'wolf child', but Edith and an initially unwilling Skalde decide to protect her. A compromise is made: according to the legends, the mythical forest creatures never shed their milk teeth, so the girl is allowed to live with Edith and Skalde for a while, to see if she will grow a set of adult ivories like normal humans do. But if not, the villagers have a few plans in mind...

For those who want to see a spectacular werewolf thriller with transformations and fights, this is not your film. It's a drama, first and foremost, more interested in issues than in shocks. Milk Teeth focuses on Skalde, and her struggle with what to protect: her standing in the group, or the mysterious young girl who she feels increasingly maternal about. There are no glowing eyes, long nails, or sudden hair growth to be seen here. But that which you don't see can be creepier, and as the story progresses you grow more and more concerned for the main characters as there are a myriad of dangers to conquer, real and imagined. Sophia Bösch has a few things to say about tolerance, sisterhood, maternity, societal hierarchy and individual responsibility, and she makes her points well. You can understand everyone's actions in this film, even though you'd often be hard-pressed to agree with them.

It helps that the film, which is Sophia Bösch' feature debut, is beautifully shot and makes good use of its environment. We're used to seeing post-apocalyptic deserts, but a post-apocalyptic normal looking European forest? That is new. And the acting is really good, easily allowing the narrative to patch over some of the muddier parts of the story.

Audiences in Rotterdam liked the film as well and awarded it a rating of 4.0 out of 5.

Milk Teeth had its world première in Rotterdam and will be travelling the festival circuit onward.


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