Dir: Hilde Heier. Norway. 1999. 97 mins.

Prod cos: Wildhagen Produksjon AS, CO Film, Norwegian Film Institute & Swedish Film Institute. US sales c/o Menemsha Entertainment (+1 310 712 3720). Int'l sales: Norsk Filminstitute (+47 2247 4575). Prod: Christian Wildhagen. Scr: Hilde Heier. DoP: Harald Gunnar Paalgard. Prod des: Aida Kalnins. Ed: Sophie Hesselberg. Mus: Aid by Verdi. Main cast: Hege Schoyen, Sven Nordin, Philip Zanden, Anne-Lise Berntsen, Liv Gunhild Tandberg.

Norway's submission for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award last year is an elegant and sensitive piece boasting a standout performance from local stage and film star Hege Schoyen in the title role. What could have been a dour and plodding Nordic examination of marital discontent and female insecurity becomes something entirely more appealing in the hands of writer-director Heier and Schoyen, who in the character of Siv, have created a fully realised multi-dimensional protagonist as warm and passionate as she is shy and unconfident.

Audiences at the Montreal, Sundance and last week's Seattle Film Festivals responded well to the movie, which is set against the backdrop of a staging of Aida. Siv (which appropriately means "straw") is a prompter at the opera, a solitary woman who has her own private love affair with music as passionate as her relationship with her fiance, demanding divorcee Fred (Nordin). Once they are married, she is unable to stand up to Fred and his less-than-friendly children and retreats back into her private world and desperate isolation. Until, that is, she meets a tuba player (Zanden) at the opera who gives her a new lease of life.