101 Reykjavik [DVD] [2001]

Baltasar Kormákur
Modern-day Iceland is terminally weird, if writer-director Baltasar Kormákur's debut film 101 Reykjavík is anything to go by. Our guide to this particular Icelandic saga is Hlynur, 28-year-old unemployed slacker and one-man Nordic-gloom factory; "I'll be dead after I die. I was dead before I was born. Life is just a break from death," he muses. After his gut-freezingly boring family Christmas dinner--whose highpoint is watching a video of last year's ditto--you can see his point. Distraction, and a welcome dose of Southern warmth, comes in the form of his mother's flamenco teacher Lola (the delicious Victoria Abril). Only after sleeping with her does he discover that she's not just Mum's teacher, but her lover as well. A little like Pål Sletaune's 1997 Norwegian postie-comedy Junk Mail, 101 Reykjavík gets a lot of lugubrious fun from its protagonist's sheer social and emotional ineptitude--though to give Hlynur his due, most of his mates seem equally clueless, (the women, as so often in this kind of movie, come off rather better). We've been here before, of course--as a male with a severe case of delayed adolescence is gradually brought to engage with adulthood--but the offbeat humour and eccentric details of Kormákur's film keep it fresh and engaging. Whether--in view of remarks like "Reykjavík is like some backwater in Siberia, with glaciated diarrhoea,"--it will do much for the Icelandic tourist trade is another matter! On the DVD: Filmographies for Kormákur, Abril, and lead male actor Hilmir Snaer Gudnason; subtitles and menu; and the theatrical trailer, which contains snatches of several scenes evidently cut from the final release. The sound is clean and immediate (score co-composed by Damon Albarn) and the widescreen print preserves the original 16:9 ratio. --Philip Kemp


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