The film opens in black and white, a chilly, mountainous forest, with snow falling all around. Two woodsmen take shelter in a hut, where a mysterious Snow Woman (Kiki Sugino) enters their shelter and steals away the life of the older one, telling Minokichi, the younger man that if he ever tells anyone what she has done, then she will kill him. Later Minokichi meets Yuki (Sugino again, who also directed the film), a young woman who looks identical to the Snow Woman and marries her. They live together happily for years and have a daughter Ume.
Life seems very happy and trouble free, but a number of unexplained deaths occur in the village and amongst the workers at the factory where Minikichi works. These all bear the marks of being carried out by the same killer and suspicion falls on Yuki.
The film is beautifully shot, full of mystery and the unknowable that is present in nature and even in the people we think we know best. There is a deliberate blending of time periods real and imagined which gives the film a sense of timelessness (or confusion depending on your way of seeing things).
Is Yuki really the snow woman or is this just part of her character that has remained hidden away or is he snow woman in fact a manifestation of Minokichi's fears? Will Ume inherit this part of her mother's character?
This is just the latest cinematic interpretation of the Snow Woman legend, you can read about previous versions here.
Snow Woman is showing as part of Edinburgh International Film Festival at: 6pm, Thursday 29 June at Cineworld and 6pm, Saturday 1 July at Odeon, Lothian Road. You can book your tickets here.
Here are links to the other films I've seen in the festival:
Red Dog, True Blue.
The Dark Mile.
A Distant Echo.
God's Own Country.
Journey's through Time and Culture (review of Zer, Sami Blood and Donkeyote).
Two Films about our relationship with animals (review of Okja and The Challenge).
Leaning into the Wind.
My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea.
Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended press screenings of these films.