Both Scott Hicks's film Snow Falling on Cedars and Peter Hoeg's novel Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow create images of natural beauty and purity and also of power and destruction with the same motif: snow.

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Both Scott Hicks’s film Snow Falling on Cedars and Peter Hoeg’s novel Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow create images of natural beauty and purity and also of power and destruction with the same motif: snow. The snow obviously shapes Smilla’s world in a very conscious way, it is her ally in her struggle; whilst Ishmael’s world is under attack literally and symbolically from this powerful natural force. The flickering lights of the courthouse capture the fragility of human reason and decency as the snow beats against the roof. Yet in both endings the snow comes to represent freshness and purity, and it is through the stories of Smilla and Ishmael that Hoeg and Hicks explore this transition. The snow falling in Smilla’s world is quanick, large, light and magical and the fog obscuring Karl’s world, possesses an equally mysterious quality. From these points of departure, both Hoeg’s novel and Hicks’s film begin to create worlds characterised and shaped by formidable weather. Both stories are powerfully conveyed by the vivid imagery of their settings. Hoeg opens his novel with a powerful prologue, set at a funeral; Smilla instantly informs us that weather, the seemingly limitless “December darkness”, has influenced her mood.  Smilla’s connection with her environment is stressed throughout the novel and is strikingly apparent in the conclusion. She is left alone on a pure-white glacier, in the freshly fallen snow. The natural order has returned, inviting her to a new beginning. Ishmael’s journey also concludes with falling snow, he walks away as the snow falls gently around him, the storm has been confronted and he survives, he walks away a free man.

Hoeg begins his novel with explicitly detailed descriptions of Smilla’s surroundings. The language effectively captures the play of light off the snow, the freshness in the air, the coldness of death is observed ironically with the funeral for the boy, “who will never again feel the cold.” This description then leads into Smilla’s reading of Euclid’s Elements which further establishes Smilla’s affinity with the natural world and galvanises an image of Smilla as a natural ice-queen in the heated hustle and bustle of the modern world. This juxtaposition of elemental images is also used effectively in Snow Falling on Cedars to define the world of San Pietro. The strong natural emphasis in the wording of the title Snow Falling on Cedars establishes the fact that nature and natural events will be vital to the story. Most obviously the opening credits draw the viewers’ attention to the power of nature, present in the fog and the power of accident. The cut from this surreal green fog to a beautiful snow storm hanging over the deep-rooted and strong Cedar trees establishes the theme of the film in revealing that the resilient Japanese community (and the broader American society) is under threat from this natural, but disastrous menace of racial prejudice.

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 This understanding of the elements is pivotal in Smilla’s and the reader’s unravelling of the mystery: the real story begins when Smilla takes one look at the snow on the rooftop and instantly is aware of an unnatural occurrence.  Smilla’s meandering path toward the truth highlights to the reader the inexplicable and random course of events that make up our world. Smilla interprets her world through snow, it is her maths and it is her religion. In snow, Smilla discovers a clash of past and present and a sense of purpose, she uses snow to read people, places and ...

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