Six friends are headed to an isolated cabin in the Osterdalen forests of Norway. Bjorn Werner (Per Lillo-Stenberg) just bought the cabin and has been there for several weeks. On the train to visit him are his twin sister Liljan Werner (Henny Moan), her fiancé Harald Gran (Georg Richter), mystery writer Bernhard Borge (Henki Kolstad), his wife Sonja Borge (Bjorg Engh), psychoanalyst Kai Bugge (Erling Lindahl) and magazine critic Gabriel Mork (Andre Bjerke).
Liljan is concerned that she hasn’t heard from her brother in awhile. Being twins they are very close and she instinctively knows when something is wrong with Bjorn. She has that feeling now. They are met at the station by a friend of Harald’s, a local constable named Braten (Oyvind Oyen). Braten goes with them to the cabin. When they get there they find that Bjorn is not there and neither is his dog or his shotgun. They surmise that he is out hunting and being too far away to get back decided to stay in one of the hunting shacks in the woods. They decide to look for him the next day if he doesn’t return.
After dinner Braten tells the gang the local legend about the cabin and the lake. According to Braten, a hundred years ago a man named Tore Gravik (Leif Sommerstad) was in love with his sister. She eloped with a farmhand. Tore attacked them with an axe and put their bodies in the lake. He went crazy and drowned himself in the lake a few days later. Now Tore haunts the area and possesses anyone who stays there making them drown themselves in the lake. Braten says the incident happened on August 23rd. . Two days from today is the anniversary of the event.
That night the group visits the lake in the moonlight. They find Bjorn’s dog dead, his gun and his hat, all by the edge of the lake. Later Bugge finds Bjorn’s diary. The writing shows a man losing touch on reality. He has become obsessed with the legend of Tore Gravik and firmly believes the ghost of Tore Gravik possesses him.
When one of their numbers ends up drowned and another ends up trying to kill themselves the old legend seems more and more true.
“Lake of the Dead” AKA “De dodes tjern” was released in 1958 and was directed by Kare Bergstrom. It is a Norwegian horror mystery based on the 1942 novel by Andre Bjerke.
Bjerke wrote the novel under the pseudonym Bernhard Borge. One of the movie’s main characters is the author’s pseudonym while another character, Gabriel Mork, is played by the author himself. In addition Bjerke was married to Henny Moan, the young woman who plays Liljan. Jarl Andre Bjerke was a Norwegian mystery writer. One of his main characters was the psycho analyst Kai Bugge who solves crimes.
This was an incredibly atmospheric movie especially once they get to the lake. The cinematography was amazing and the story was intriguing. The acting was great. Some may find the film “talky” but I was captivated by all of it. It is a masterful blend of horror and psychological thriller. The movie is considered Norway’s fourth best movie by critics. I recommend it highly.
In 2019 the movie was remade by Nini Bull Robsahm.
The movie was well received in Norway but is very obscure in the U.S. It contains the most famous scene in Norwegian movie industry. This is the shot where Liljan walks towards the lake in her nightgown intent on drowning herself in the lake.