Dir.: Marteinn Thorsson; Cast: Laufey Eliasdottir, Tim Plester, Soley Eliasdottir, Eyglo Eliasdottir, Sara Dögg Asgeiersdottir, Johann Gunnarson; Iceland 2021, 92 min.
Icelandic director Marteinn Thorsson (XL) has adapted Gudmundut Oskarson’s script about grief and how not to deal with it in this zany and often bizarre tragic comedy, set in what can only be described as the back of beyond. Iceland’s hostile terrain and freezing weather lend an icy chill to the tricky human interactions, Thorsson steering his ‘ship of fools’ through to a surprising ending – narrowly avoiding self-parody,.
Colour comes from a few brightly painted wooden huts near a spa where Bryna (L. Eliasdottir) fetches up needing psychiatric help more than physical rehab. Equally disturbed is her next door neighbour, middle-aged Mark (Pelster) from England, who knocks on her door, looking for paprika (yes, it’s a weird one). Both bear the scars of family trauma: Bryna at odds with her mother for leaving when she was only five. Mark is a lone traveller dealing with a recent bereavement. Awkward conversation and a meal cooked by Mark in his self-catering ‘chalet’ allow the two to get to know one another. But their lack of knowing themselves makes it impossible for them to engage in a meaningful way. The next morning the two set off to a remote spot where Mark’s son was discovered after a two-year police search. Meanwhile Bryna’s mother has declared her ‘a missing person’ unable to reach her by ‘phone.
Later, back at base, Johanna (S. Eliasdottir) and sister Gunnhildur (E. Eliasdottir), are livid at Bryna’s sudden disappearance and concerned for her wellbeing. Mark turns up on the scene anxious to defend Bryna with a sudden intrusion that forms the quirky catalyst for a Chekovian showdown of as each desperate character revisits the past.
The feature’s shifting, twisting mood from drama, comedy and outright farce keeps us guessing in an unsettling scenario inflamed by surreal settings, DoP Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson’s stunning camerawork reflecting the magnificent terrain where humans strive to make sense of their existence in an absurd tragic-comedy. AS
Santa Barbara International Film Festival