Posts Tagged ‘Icelandic’

Under the Tree | Undir Trenu (2018) **** Mubi

Dir.: Hafstein Gunnar Sigurdsson; Cast.: Steinthor Steinporsson, Edda Bjorgvinsdottir, Sigurdur Sigurjonsson, Lara Johanna Jonsdottir, Pornsteinn Bachmann, Selma Bjornsdottir; Iceland//Denmark/Poland/Germany 2017, 89 min.

In this urban satire, Hafstein Gunnar Sigurdsson (Rams) pulls off a comedy feat, making us laugh at our own small mindedness. A great ensemble showcases this tour-de-force of middle-class nimby-ism with much the same dark humour as Rams.

It all starts with male embarrassment: husband Atli (Steinporsson) is surprised by his wife Agnes (Jonsdottir) in the early morning, masturbating to pornographic images of himself on his laptop  – or so he claims. Agnes throws him out, not realising that his next place of residence back home with his parents – will soon be a war zone. Meanwhile Atli’s brother is heading for suicide, and his mother Inga (Bjorgvinsdottir) – suffering from depression – has chosen the next-door neighbours Konrad (Bachman) and Eybjorg (Bjornsdottir) as the butt of her deflected self-hatred. Konrad and Eyborg, not unreasonably, want the huge tree on his parents’ property trimmed, at it blocks the sun from their front porch. While Inga’s husband Baldvin (Sigurjonsson) is ready to compromise, Inga herself does not want to sacrifice a leaf – she goes on the warpath blowing a gasket of pent up emotion. So Atli moves into a tent in the garden, his parent’s Persian cat disappears without a trace and Inga is convinced the neighbours have abducted the puss.

Since said neighbours own a proud German shepherd, Inga takes matters in her own hands: impersonating Eybjorg opts for extreme measures with the animal. And when husband Baldvin criticises her for being over the top, she tells him “at least they know where he is, unlike me” – referring to the missing body of her son. Then Konrad, in the middle of the night, takes his saw to the tree in question, setting in motion a bloody Shakespearean tragedy.

Violence simmers under the suface: Atli cannot stand the thought of Agnes getting custody of their four-year old daughter Asa: who he abducts from Kindergarten. later smashing his wife’s mobile and threatening violence. Unlike his mother, Atli is too phlegmatic to escalate the conflict, listening to his father’s solution for compromise  – the apple never falls far from this tree either.

The film never takes itself too seriously: at a tenants’ meeting in Agnes’ flat, she complains about him being there, blurting out at the meeting “Atli masturbates to his girlfriend’s pictures. That’s not right, is it?”, to which the male half of a couple, whose nightly lovemaking keeps the neighbourhood awake, responds with a curt “why not, it’s okay”.

Under the Tree is chock-full of witty one-liners as hilarious as they are absurd: but underneath there lurks a nimbyism and an intolerance of anyone not sharing their own values (while also claiming to be ‘liberal’). By the end, Sigurdsson, fed up with  humans, leaves the last word to the cat. AS

NOW ON MUBI

Under the Tree | Undir Trenu (2018) **** | Dual format release

Dir.: Hafstein Gunnar Sigurdsson; Cast.: Steinthor Steinporsson, Edda Bjorgvinsdottir, Sigurdur Sigurjonsson, Lara Johanna Jonsdottir, Pornsteinn Bachmann, Selma Bjornsdottir; Iceland//Denmark/Poland/Germany 2017, 89 min.

In this urban satire, Hafstein Gunnar Sigurdsson (Rams) pulls off a comedy feat: he makes us laugh at our own petty mindedness that can at any moment send us hurtling into a cataclysmic abyss. A great ensemble showcases this a tour-de-force of middle-class nimby-ism with the same dark humour as Rams.

It all starts with a male embarrassment: husband Atli (Steinporsson) is surprised by his wife Agnes (Jonsdottir) in the early morning, masturbating to pornographic images on his laptop featuring him and and – or so he claims. Agnes throws him out, not knowing that his next place of residence back with his parents – will soon be a war zone. After the loss of Atli’s brother, who is heading for suicide, his mother Inga (Bjorgvinsdottir) has been suffering from depression, and has chosen the next-door neighbours Konrad (Bachman) and Eybjorg (Bjornsdottir), as an object for her deflected self-hatred. Konrad and Eyborg, not unreasonably, want the huge tree on his parents’ property trimmed, at it blocks the sun from their front porch. Whilst Inga’s husband Baldvin (Sigurjonsson) is ready to compromise, Inga herself does not want to sacrifice a leaf – she craves war, to release her pent-up emotions. After Atli moves in, living in a tent in the garden, his parent Persian cat disappears without a trace and Inga is convinced the neighbours have abducted her. Since said neighbours own a proud German shepherd, Inga takes matters in her own hand: impersonating Eybjorg at the vets, she has the animal put to sleep and, after taxidermy, puts it at the front door of the hatred neighbours. When husband Baldvin criticises her action as over the top she tells him “at least they know where he is, unlike me” – referring to the missing body of her son. When Konrad, in the middle of the night, takes his saw to the titular tree, he sets in motion a bloody Shakespearean tragedy.

Violence simmers under the suface: Atli cannot stand the thought of Agnes getting custody of their four-year old daughter Asa: who he abducts from Kindergarten and later smashes his wife’s mobile after harassing her at her workplace. But unlike his mother, Atli is too phlegmatic to escalate the conflict, listening to his father’s compromise solutions – but one can see a family resemblance. Though the director never forgets to show us the funny side: at a tenants’ meeting in Agnes’ flat, she complains about Atli being there, blurting out at the meeting “Atli masturbates to the images of his girlfriend. That’s not alright, isn’t it?”, to which the male half of a couple, whose nightly, noisy lovemaking keeps the neighbours awake, responds with a curt “why not, it’s okay”.

Under the Tree is full of dialogue chock-full of witty one-liners as startling as they are absurd: but underneath there lurks a nimbyism and an intolerance of anyone who is not perceived as showing their own values. By the end, Sigurdsson, fed up with  humans, leaves the last ‘meow’ to the cat. AS

DUAL FORMAT RELEASE | 14 JANUARY 2019 | COURTESY OF EUREKA  

Everest (2015) Prime

Dir: Baltazar Kormákur | Cast: Jake Gyllenhall, Emily Watson, Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, Elizabeth Debicki, Keira Knightley | 121min  Action thriller

Icelandic director Baltazar Kormakur attempts to scale the highest peak but doesn’t quite reach Nirvana here in a thriller based on real events (always a tricky premise when those affected are still alive). Everest wraps a series of lukewarm love stories in the grip of an icy disaster movie, based on an attempt to scale Mount Everest in 1996. For once the 3D format actually brings to life the vertiginous peaks, hellish chasms and lofty mountain scenery of Nepal but somehow the human elements are less impressive.

The action shifts between a group of gung-ho mountaineers bent on proving themselves, leaving their disappointed partners back home trying to grapple with real life. And although Kormakur spends a long time at basecamp building rapport with his characters, none stands out with a personality to make us care if they succeed or fail. Jake Gyllenhaal is billed as the star of this ‘epic’ drama but is cast as a neanderthal nice-guy so cool he ends up frigid, quite literally. Josh Brolin starts out fighting fit but will limp back to his Texan roost where his wife (Robin Wright) is the one really wearing the trousers. Keira Knightley is there with her signature grimace and a bump to keep her grounded, while her on screen partner Jason Clarke gets to lead the expedition (as Rob Hall) in a ridiculously patterned romper suit. In a bizarre twist, there are no heroes but plenty of fall-guys – in the true sense of the word.

Ostensibly, climbing is now a commercial exercise, and there are plenty of organisations in the Himalayas making money out of their punters’ desires and dreams: And we’re talking big money to the tune of $65,000 a pop. Clearly there are risks as well as rewards and the former outweighs the latter. Rob is responsible for ensuring he delivers – not only for the clients but also for his bosses: As Emma Watson’s stolid base-camp administrator Helen (who job is to be the lynchpin) points out: “it’ll be bad if we don’t get any climbers to the summit again this year”.

As an experienced mountaineer, Rob is the consummate professional. Despite his unwise sartorial choices, you feel safe with him but spooked out by his climbing advice: “Human beings aren’t built to function at the cruising altitude of a 747.” The other clients in the group are Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) a part-time postman, and Yasuko (Naoko Mori), the token woman. And to give the expedition glowing press coverage there is well-known journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly, who also features in Amy Berg’s Prophet’s Prey) who went on to write about the ill-fated expedition.

Jake Gyllenhaal is oddly cast as Scott Fischer, a laid back guru leading a competing team, who ends up drifting off into the snowy outback as an also-ran. A perfect storm is to alter the course of their odyssey with unsurprisingly tragic results that make for some gripping viewing, and Kormakur doesn’t disappoint in icy ground already covered in  Kevin Macdonald’s 2003 documentary Touching The Void. The ascent is always easier than the descent where summits are concerned: the euphoria at reaching the summit leads to slackness in safety procedures and mistakes are inevitable on the way down A fatal flaw in the timing of Rob and Doug’s descent leads to tragedy – but whether this is due to human error or just an Act of God with the ‘mountain making it’s own weather’ is never determined.

Everest is an entertaining watch but its human backstory is as disappointing as that of Kormakur’s previous outing The Deep that loses its way in slushy characterisation so as not to upset the real people affected. Go for the terrific view. MT

NOW ON AMAZON PRIME | TOUCHING THE VOID is on MUBI

 

Copyright © 2022 Filmuforia