review by Elias Savada, 4 June 2004

As Icelandic films go, and I can only vouch for Nói (Nói Albinói), to date the only feature I've seen from that isolated island country (while many people fly over, few apparently stop in; only 300,000 live there), please, sir, bring me more. Filmmaker Dagur Kári's debut feature is an intimate digital study of desolation in a small community cut off by winter's frozen spell. Situated somewhere between Fargo and Northern Exposure, the film is a character-driven tale of, well, not much other than a restless teenager, Nói (Tómas Lemarquis), the town's pale, pencil-thin, skinhead "albino," a laggard who drifts back and forth from home to school, to book store, to gasoline station/convenience store. He's a few rungs down from Max Fischer or Donnie Darko, and tends to doze off and remain in extended REM mode before his grandmother rouses him, not with a cozy nudge, but a blast from the family shotgun.

At home with his grandmother (Anna Fridriksdóttir, a natural non-professional who actually delivers the mail in the director-writer's neighborhood), he prefers to sneak down into a cellar hideaway concealed under a throw rug, a self-imposed exile from those who can't understand or tolerate him. As for role models, he's got slim pickings. His father Kiddi Beikon (Thröstur Leó Gunnarsson) is a drunken cabbie inclined to sing Elvis tunes in the small shack he calls home, but is incapable of instilling the discipline, or punctuality, that is lacking in his son's life. His teacher, frustrated by the 17-year-old's constant napping in class, his minimalist approach to a math test (i.e., signing his name), or Nói's hilarious idea to send an audiotape recorder to class in his place as proof of paying attention, suggests expulsion. Maybe a psychiatrist could help, wonders his principal, but Nói's too busy quickly solving a Rubik's cube to pay the shrink any mind. Inwardly a genius, outwardly a social misfit; the teen can't seem to cut a break. His Shangri-la lay elsewhere, in that secret basement tomb or the colorful Hawaii-themed slides he observes in his Viewmaster, a birthday present from granny. How quaint that the film is being released in the United States by Palm Pictures.

Amid the steel blue dullness that transcends the town, hovering like the massive, snowbound rock towering nearby, Nói finds himself attracted to the pretty Iris (Elín Hansdóttir, another fresh non-professional), daughter of the local bookseller—the one who collects Coke bottles and munches on Oreos. She's returning from the city (why?) to work at the gas station, eventually paying some attention to Nói here on desolation row. On their first date (proving the adage that misery loves company), not more than a smoke out in the freezing cold, they break into a local museum filled with stuffed birds and bears, and discover a world map that lights major locations. Iceland is left in the dark—a spit in the ocean—just like Nói in his unnamed town. Kicked out of school, he does find work in the frozen wasteland, as a gravedigger, just after a local fortuneteller sees death in Nói's tea leaves.

Day-to-day boredom is the standard issue state of mind for the geeky, clumsy Nói in this snowbound prison, but Kári's deadpan humor instills the film's emptiness with a warm glow. The film's unexpected tragic ending does offer a ray of hope that the years of angst suffered by our teen anti-hero may soon melt away into a tropical paradise. It's time to join him down in the cellar.

Written and
Directed by:

Dagur Kári

Tómas Lemarquis
Thröstur Leó Gunnarsson
Elín Hansdóttir
Anna Fridriksdóttir
Hjalti Rögnvaldsson
Pétur Eínarsson
Kjartan Bjargmundsson
Greipur Gíslason

PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may be
inappropriate for
children under 13.






  Copyright © 1996-2005 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.