Smilla’s Sense of Snow (1996)

Germany, Denmark, Sweden, 1966
35mm film, colour, 2.35:1
Dolby Digital, English, Inuktitut

A German/Danish/Swedish borderline science fiction film directed by Bille August.

Plot Summary

When she starts to investigate the death of a young boy who fell from a roof, Smilla Jasperson finds herself on the trail of a mysterious corporation that has been trying to retrieve a meteorite from a remote glacier.


Directed by: Bille August
© MCMXCVI [1996] Constantin Film Productions GmbH
A German-Danish-Swedish coproduction of Constantin Filmproduktion GmbH in cooperation with Smilla Film A/S, Greenland Film Production AB and Bavaria Film GmbH. This film was supported by Eurimages, Danish Film Institute; Hans Hansen, FFA, Filmfernsehfonds Bayern and Nordic Film- & TV Fund. Fox Searchlight Pictures presents a Bernd Eichinger production. A Bille August film
Produced by: Bernd Eichinger and Martin Moszkowicz
Screenplay by: Ann Biderman
Based Upon the Novel by: Peter Høeg [opening credits]
Based Upon the novel by Peter Høeg “Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne” originally published by Editions Munksgaard/Rosinante published in the U.S. by Rarrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. (translation by Trina Nunnally). Published in Great Britain by Harvill an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers. Published in Germany by Carl Hanser Verlag
Director of Photography: Jörgen Persson
Editor: Janus Billeskov-Jansen
Music by [opening credits] Music Composed and Arranged by [end credits]: Harry Gregson-Williams and Hans Zimmer
Production Sound Supervisor: Chris Munro
Costume Designer: Barbara Baum
Make-up & Hair Supervisors: Gerlinde Kunz, Horst Stadlinger
Visual Effects: Cinesite; Digital Filmworks, Inc.
Production Designer: Anna Asp

Julia Ormond (Smilla [Jasperson])
Gabriel Byrne (mechanic)
Richard Harris ([Dr Andreas] Tork)
Robert Loggia (Moritz [Jasperson])
Jim Broadbent ([Dr] Lagermann)
Mario Adorf ([Captain Sigmund] Lukas)
Bob Peck (Ravn)
Tom Wilkinson ([Professor] Loyen)
Emma Croft (Benja)
Peter Capaldi ([Birgo] Lander)
Jürgen Vogel ([Nils] Jakkelsen)
Vanessa Redgrave (Elsa Lübing)
Ona Fletcher (Inuit hunter)
Agga Olsen (Juliane [Christiansen])
Patrick Field (policeman)
Matthew Marsh (detective)
Charlotte Bradley (Mrs Lagermann)
Charles Lewsen|Charles Lewson (pastor)
Ann Queensberry (Mrs Schou)
David Hayman (Telling)

Alternative Titles

I aisthisi tis Smilla sto hioni – Greece
Bialy labirynt – Poland
Fräulein Smillas Gespür für Schnee – Germany
Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne – Denmark
Fröken Smillas känsla för snö – Sweden
A Hó hatalma – Hungary
Lumen taju – Finland
Osecaj gospodice Smile za sneg – Serbia
Paneles Smilos sniego jausmas – Lithuania
Il senso di Smilla per la neve – Italy
Smila: Misterio en la nieve – Argentina, Spain
Smilla – Canada (French), France
Smilla e o Mistério da Neve
– Portugal
Smilla et l'amour de la neige
– France (television)
Smilla ve karlar
– Turkey
Smilla's Feeling for
– UK


Variety 17 February 1997 pp.68, 69
An exceedingly sleek and handsome thriller, this ambitious European co-production, like the novel on which it's quite faithfully based, starts intriguingly but fails to stay the distance. Though arguably miscast as a half Inuit scientist-turned-private investigator, Julia Ormond dominates the film with a most engaging performance, but, as in the book, the plotting gets murkier and less credible as the mystery unfolds. Though never dull, Bille August's film ultimately fails to deliver on initial expectations and looms as only a medium-level box office draw for Fox Searchlight. […] Ormond, while looking great and delivering a good old-fashioned star performance, doesn't really resemble the character in the book, and Smilla Jasperson's motivations may not always be dear to the uninitiated. […] During the first half, August establishes an uneasy, edgy atmosphere, helped considerably by the stylish editing of Janus Billeskov Jansen, who uses an unusual number of abrupt dissolves. […] For most of the film's first hour, the metaphysical mystery is tantalizingly well-realised. Unfortunately, the second half descends into sub-James Bond territory, with Smilla's actions becoming increasingly physical and, at the same time, steadily less believable. When the action shifts to Greenland, it loses all conviction. […] On every technical level, “Smilla” is a fine achievement for the Scandinavian and German crew, especially cinematographer Jorgen Persson, whose widescreen, blue-tinged camerawork is a major contribution to the film's texture and mood. Only the music score, by Harry Gregson-Williams and Hans Zimmer, seems at times a bit predictable, with its repeated riffs designed to whip up artificial suspense. On the whole, admirers of the novel should be pleased with August's work here, but it's doubtful that audiences will come out in truly significant numbers for what proves to be an intriguing but ultimately very tall story. from a review by David Stratton



  • Danish Film News no.2 (5 May 1996) p.2 – illustrated article (August Films Smilla's Sense of Snow)
  • Empire no.101 (November 1997) p.50 – illustrated review (New films by Deborah Brown)
  • Eyepiece vol.17 no.2 (April/May 1996) p.12 – credits
  • Film (epd) vol.14 no.3 (March 1997) pp.40, 41 – illustrated review (Kritiken by Heike Kühn)
  • Film Review Special no.21 James Bond (1997) pp.96-98 – illustrated interview with Julia Ormond (Snow business by Helen van Kryssen)
  • Film Review Special no.22 Yearbook 1997/1998 p.87 – illustrated review (Film reviews by Marianne Gray)
  • Film Tutti i Film della Stagione no.43 (January/February 2000) pp.56-57 – illustrated review
  • Film-Echo/Filmwoche no.4 (27 January 1996) p.31 – note (Drehplan)
  • Film-Echo/Filmwoche no.5 (1 February 1997) p.53 – illustrated review (Filmofax)
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.341 no.39 (2 April 1996) p.19 – note
  • Kino no.2 (May 1996) p.13 (Germany) – note (Smilla's Sense of Snow)
  • Movieplus no.5 (October 1997) p.7 – illustrated article (Coming soon…)
  • München Film News no.1 (1997) p.1 (Germany) – article (Fräulein Smilla eröffnet Berlinale)
  • Positif no.439 (September 1997) pp.49-50 (FRance) – illustrated review (by M.C.)
  • Premiere vol.5 no.10 (November 1997) pp.74-77 – illustrated interview with Julia Ormond (Chilling out by Demetrios Matheou)
  • Screen International no.1034 (17 November 1995) pp.2 – note (MIFED Briefs)
  • Screen International no.1053 (12 April 1996) pp.1 – note
  • Screen International no.1096 (21 February 1997) pp.29 – illustrated review (Reviews by Boyd Farrow)
  • Sight and Sound vol.7 no.11 (November 1997) pp.52-53 – illustrated review (Reviews by Geoffrey Macnab)
  • Variety 17 February 1997 pp.68,69 – illustrated review (by David Stratton)