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The Juniper Tree is a 1990 Icelandic medieval fantasy drama film directed and written by Nietzchka Keene. Based on the fairy tale "The Juniper Tree" collected by the Brothers Grimm, it stars a small cast of five actors: Björk, Bryndis Petra Bragadóttir, Guðrún Gísladóttir, Valdimar Örn Flygenring and Geirlaug Sunna Þormar.[1] The film was selected to compete for the Grand Jury Prize – Dramatic at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival.

The Juniper Tree
The Juniper Tree.jpg
Re-release poster
Directed byNietzchka Keene
Produced byPatrick Moyroud
Written byNietzchka Keene
  • Björk Guðmundsdóttir
  • Bryndis Petra Bragadóttir
  • Guðrún Gísladóttir
  • Valdimar Örn Flygenring
  • Geirlaug Sunna Þormar
Music byLarry Lipkis
CinematographyRandy Sellars
Edited byNietzchka Keene
Distributed byRhino Home Video
Release date
  • April 10, 1990 (1990-04-10) (Sundance)
  • February 12, 1993 (1993-02-12) (Iceland)
Running time
78 minutes



The Juniper Tree is set in Iceland and portrays the story of two sisters, Margit (Björk Guðmundsdóttir) and her elder sister Katla (Bryndis Petra Bragadóttir), who escape their home after their mother (Guðrún Gísladóttir) is stoned and burned for witchcraft. They go where no one knows them, and find Jóhann (Valdimar Örn Flygenring), a young widower who has a son called Jónas (Geirlaug Sunna Þormar). Katla uses magical powers to seduce Jóhann and they start living together. Margit and Jónas become friends. However, Jónas does not accept Katla as his stepmother and tries to convince his father to leave her. Katla's magic power is too strong and even though he knows he should leave her, he can't. Margit's mother appears to her in visions and Jónas' mother appears as a raven and to bring him a magical feather.

Production and releaseEdit

The Juniper Tree was shot in Iceland with an extraordinarily small budget in 1986.[2] The film was shot in black and white to highlight its dramatic content and as a resource to place the story in the Middle Ages. Some scenes were filmed in the Seljalandsfoss, Iceland.

Due to financial problems, the film was not released until 1990, when it competed for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.[2] The film was restored to 4K resolution by the Center for Film & Theatre Research, Wisconsin, and was theatrically released on March 15, 2019.[3] The restoration re-release project premiered at the AFI Fest on November 10, 2018.[4] Rhino Home Video released the film on VHS in 1995 and on DVD in 2002. It was also released on DVD in 2003 in Japan.[citation needed]

Critical receptionEdit

The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reports a 100% approval rating, and an average rating of 7.92/10, based on 11 reviews.[5] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 84 out of 100, based on 5 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[6]

Glenn Kenny from The New York Times praised Keene's direction and Björk's "enchanting" performance.[7] David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film "B+" and wrote "A wonderful performance from a 21-year-old Björk is one of many reasons to see Nietzchka Keene's newly restored medieval fantasy."[8]


  1. ^ "THE JUNIPER TREE (EINITRÉÐ)". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on April 13, 2019. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Hughes, Hilary (March 3, 2019). "Watch Bjork Sing in This Hypnotic Clip of 'The Juniper Tree,' Her Newly Restored Feature Film Debut". Billboard. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  3. ^ Crump, Andy. "The Juniper Tree". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  4. ^ Aubrey, Elizabeth (2018-11-03). "Björk's dreamy 1990 film debut 'The Juniper Tree' to be re-released". NME. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  5. ^ "The Juniper Tree (1990)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  6. ^ "The Juniper Tree Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  7. ^ Kenny, Glenn (March 14, 2019). "'The Juniper Tree' Review: A Young Björk Enchants in Her Film Acting Debut". The New York Times. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  8. ^ Ehrlich, David (March 14, 2019). "The Juniper Tree Review: Björk's First Movie Is Ripe for Rediscovery". IndieWire. Retrieved April 13, 2019.

External linksEdit