A quiet, nuanced tale as teenage Ari (Atli Oskar Fjalarsson – The Midnight Sky, Jitters) is sent from Reykjavik to live with his alcoholic father (Ingvar Sigurdsson – Everest, TV’s Katla) in the remote fishing village of his early childhood. Remarried, his mother is leaving Iceland for Africa.
Atmospheric in its raw beauty, Iceland’s stunning landscape plays an important role in the everyday of Ari, now working in the fish processing factory. Seen as the outsider, the teenager struggles as parental conflict, boredom and schoolday baggage come to a head in a graphically harrowing scene in the insular town.
An adolescent rights of passage, Sparrows (written and directed by Rúnar Rúnarsson – Echo, Volcano) is a poignant tale of abandonment, need, acceptance and love.
A slice of Christmas life in Iceland, a series of 50+ momentary vignettes, some just seconds long, others lasting a few minutes. Echo is a disconnected hybrid defying the traditional linear plotline but which comes together to form a singular narrative.
Experimental, director Rúnar Rúnarsson (Sparrows, Volcano) and editor Jacob Secher Schulsinger collaged interior and exterior scenes, some staged, some documented from life to provide an Icelandic Christmas tale, but one that does not conform to a holiday stereotype. Much of it is mundane, inclusions occasionally challenging (the preparation of an open-casket funeral of a young boy). Yet the kaleidoscopic result is a variegated portrait, an engrossing spectrum of moments.
Rúnarsson wisely keeps the feature short (76 minutes) and so the film never outstays its welcome as it moves seamlessly from vignette to vignette – an emergency call centre dealing with a child witnessing parental violence, families watching fireworks in the snow, a drug rehab centre providing support, a school nativity concert.
Vast icy wastes of the Arctic unfold as Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt, Doctor Strange), single survivor of a light plane crash, must decide whether to stay in the relative safety of the wreckage – or trek across the deadly terrain in search of possible rescue. The badly injured female survivor of a second air crash (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir – Black’s Game) helps make up his mind.
The solitude is immeasurable as Mikkelsen struggles in a life-and-death ordeal with the woman barely conscious. With virtually no word spoken, an occasional grunt or agonising scream peppers this raw, committed tale with director Joe Penna, in his feature debut, presenting the fight to survive in all its unglamorous authenticity.
Entertaining enviro-political narrative as an eminently watchable Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir (Metalhead, The Seagull’s Laughter) takes on the aluminium industry polluting the beauty of the natural Icelandic countryside.
With the inadvertent help of a twin sister and a lonely farmer, Halla quietly gets things done, in spite of the establishment reacting in the belief it’s the actions of organised international terrorism.
Writer/director Benedikt Erlingsson (Of Horses and Men, Polite People) avoids overtly agitprop political speak, allowing wry humour and understated opinion speak for itself – along with the juxtaposing of the ruins of a Ukraine destroyed by over-industrialisation (a gentle subplot to the story).
Screened as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival
A ménage-a-trois in a post-nuclear world where civilisation has been largely destroyed.
But its dystopian setting is a stunningly beautiful mountainous valley of green pastures, where a deeply impressive Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, The Wolf of Wall Street) has survived in rural isolation on the family farm. Her lonely idyl is interrupted by Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, The Martian): their idyl is interrupted by the arrival of Chris Pine (Star Trek, Hell Or High Waters).
Director Craig Zobel (Compliance) creates a patient, slow burn of a film in which the three characters admirably play out the evolving storyline.
A remote, windswept valley is the setting as two brothers, estranged for 40 years in spite of their farms sharing common boundaries, must come together to save their livelihoods – the sheep that graze the barren landscape.
It’s a quiet, quirky drama, the unfolding winter-set tragedy imbued with a dark humour. Director Grimur Hakonarson (Summerland, A Pure Heart) draws us into the brothers’ world – and their connection to the land and, importantly, with the sheep. Like the film itself, lead Sigurour Sigurjonsson, the elder of the two brothers, is an understated, nuanced presence that stays with you.