Do elves really exist? Or do they only live in people's minds? Or in fiction, like in The Lord of the Rings books? German filmmaker Dorthe Eickelberg traveled all the way to Iceland, spending two and half months in the Arctic, to find out for her film Fairies and Other Tales.
Once in Iceland, a psychic tells her that elves still live behind his home in the polar wilderness and that they live inside stones and don't want to be disturbed.
Eickelberg then began to interview people on the streets, at gas stations and in stores to gather more information. She was told to keep her camera running at night. "Sometimes cameras can reveal what you cannot see with naked eyes," the psychic tells her.
"I always wanted to travel to Iceland. Whenever I read travel books, I always picked Iceland. And when I read about the legendary elves and the widespread belief of their existence in Icelanders' hearts, I said to myself that I would make a film about it," Eickelberg said yesterday in Taipei, while visiting for the ongoing Taiwan International Documentary Festival.
With a tiny budget from her Berlin film school, Eickelberg and her best friend went on the adventurous shooting trip. The result is a beautifully shot film, with stunning pictures of the glaciers, the northern lights and the mountains. Eickelberg also nicely weaves the pictures with lively animation elements (about the stones and elves) and music.
"It's a road movie, basically," Eickelberg said.
In fact it's a road movie about seeking and experiencing the supernatural at the same time. In the film, Eickelberg talks with a woman who claims to be able to communicate with the elves. The woman also foresees an accident that will happen to the film crew.
"One day we were trying to shoot the stones [of the elves], but the next day, we found that the camera was not working, and, worse, 70 percent of the footage we shot was destroyed. We gave up and returned to Germany," Eickelberg said.
When the crew finally went back to Iceland to re-shoot the footage, local people told them "You might not see the elves. But they have seen you."
Other eerie moments occurred during the shooting, as when Eickelberg's car became stuck in the snow or mud immediately after shooting the legendary stones.
The film recently won the best documentary award at the Cinema delle Donne festival in Turin, Italy and is part of the international competition section of the Taiwan International Documentary Festival.
For Eickelberg, the most important reward for shooting the film was that it became a trip of self-discovery. "I feel there is a lack in my heart and perhaps it's the same for many Germans of my generation. That is, we want to feel something and believe in something that is bigger than us," she said.
So, did she see the elves in the end? "It will depend on how the audience sees it in the film."
Fairies and Other Tales
Directed by Dorthe Eickelberg
Running time: 55 minutes
Screening times and location: Today, 4:50pm, Showtime Cinema; Wednesday, 10:30am, Showtime Cinema