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Själö – Island Of Souls

Directed by: Lotta Petronella
FI 202090' sv/fi

In 1619 Gustav II Adolf ordered the construction of a leper hospital on a remote island in the Baltic Sea – the spread of the disfiguring ailment was seen as God’s punishment for sinners. The first pastor at the local church was a doctor who went mad after just five years. After a while, others who ‘lacked the Holy Spirit’ were also sent to the island. Up until 1962, the former hospital served as an asylum for mentally ill women, their letters never reaching the intended receivers… All that remains are tales of odd white figures fleeing over the frozen sea.

When Petronella got to know the island and its archives, the voices of the past refused to leave her thoughts – and so she made this film. People were once expelled to Själö, beautiful at all times of the year. Today, the place is a research centre, and scientists voluntarily choose their isolation. The women in detention were observed in much the same way as nature is being studied here, where the souls of the forgotten wander.

Foreword by the programme curator: A ghostly visit, legends about prisoners, and the absorbing silence of nature. The souls of the island have much to say.