Edythe Smith 08/05/2010
He can solve a Rubik's cube in less than two minutes. He sleeps like the dead, especially in class. He bobs his head to reggae and can break into just about anything, or even beat you at a complex board game in the first move. His name is Nói (Tómas Lemarquis) and in his Icelandic small town locals can't figure out if he's the village idiot or an undiscovered wonder kid.
Yes, I've chosen to review another coming of age film. Like Louis Malle, I think it's a common source of intrigue for me, though I hope you'll discover that, aside from my personal interest, the genre is the best way to learn about the nuances of youth across the world. This is the first and only Nordic film that I've seen that is not based in the city or in the distant past, which I'm sure is more cutting edge. The director kept things interesting by being simple and yet very potent. Unlike directors who attempt to jazz things up and shoot in the more industrial mainland of nations, Nói is set in the outskirts and follows its albino outcast through his uneventful and yet mesmerizing adventures. Even though the film is fairly slow and doesn't have a wide array of events, it is more alive and present that some of the sappy over-stimulating dramas that we're used to. Its pathos and grim humor stand as excellent examples of everything that should be in the work of an up and coming filmmaker.
The plot is circular: Nói skips school, is shown at home where he lives with his grandmother, talks to his father Kiddi (Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson), goes to the bookstore, and then it starts all over again. However, with each revisit to the previous chain of events, a new element is added. His high school teachers grow more and more restless with his nonchalant attitude. His father's alcoholism and life lessons become more defined, and yet at the same time less noticeable. His older comrade who works as the bookkeeper loses at board games less gracefully with each match, and the snow advances like a crafty predator. NÃ³i himself seems to be both extremely bored and dissatisfied with life, and yet consumed by it—as if he's accepted the bleak fate of being lost in a frozen tundra forever. One day, a new and attractive girl name Iris (Elín Hansdóttir) starts working at the gas station he frequents. She receives him coldly at first and is announced as the daughter of the grumpy bookkeeper, who instructs Nói to stay away from her. Nói's life continues in its dreary pattern until things sort of combust. His teachers can no longer handle his lack of discipline and respect for their institution. His father's disappointment becomes harder and harder to take. While he is falling in love, it seems as though the ice is suffocating the fever of youth that should be granting him more tender experiences in life. So one day he and Iris begin to fantasize about running off to Hawaii, or some other warm and inviting place. Their hopes and desires hit home for anyone who wanted to leave the place they were brought up in order to see the world. Unfortunately, all of this tension must lead somewhere, and Nói must make some hard choices. An avalanche hits the town, wiping out several lives and just about all the material constructions in its path. It leaves Nói with what might be the most important decision of his life. He can either wallow in the harsh realities of his loss and present situation, or take it as a lesson that life can be short and the world is waiting.
There is tragedy at the end, but not in the usual sense. It seems more natural and determined to head toward beneficial change than for destruction. The comic relief helps the movie not to be too much of a downer, and the cinematography and lighting design help you to lose yourself in the landscapes and not dwell too heavily on events. It seems like there are so many simple tools that the director uses to help tell the audience how Nói is feeling, or even to build suspense. My favorite is the presence of the color green throughout the film, which hints towards Nói's desire to be in a lusher environment. Almost all the shots have a green tint, and his house is covered in metallic green wallpaper with palm trees, or just a strange shade of green in general. This was an extremely satisfying film on so many levels. Highly Recommended.
In Icelandic with English subtitles.
Seventeen-year-old Nói drifts through life on a remote fjord in the north of Iceland. In winter, the fjord is cut off from the outside world, surrounded by ominous mountains and buried under a shroud of snow. Nói dreams of escaping from this white-walled prison with Iris, a city girl who works in a local gas station. but his clumsy attempts at escape spiral out of control and end in complete failure. Only a natural disaster will shatter Nói's universe and offer him a better world...
- Starring: Anna Friðriksdóttir, Elín Hansdóttir, Throstur Leo Gunnarsson, Tómas Lemarquis
- Format: Color, Dolby, DVD, NTSC
- Language: English
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Number of Discs: 1
- Rating: PG-13
- Label: PALM
- Release Date: 10/12/2004
- Run Time: 93 minutes
- Catalogue #: 3084
- Deleted Scenes
- Making of Featurette