101 Reykjavik

UK release date: Sep 8 2009

cast list

Hilmir Snaer Gudnason
Hanna Maria Karlsdottir
Olafur Darri Olafsson
Victoria Abril

directed by
Baltasar Kormakur
What a breath of fresh air this witty, original and stylishly executed film is. Named after a postcode of the Icelandic capital, where the main scenes take place, this is the story of Hlynur (Hilmir Snaer Gudnason), the embodiment of geekness.

Approaching the grand old age of 30, he still lives with his mother, downloads cyberporn and wanders around Reykjavik half-heartedly searching for a job while spending lots of time in Kaffibarrin, the central Reykjavik bar which just happens to be owned by writer/director Baltasar Kormakur and his soundtrack composer Damon Albarn, a long-standing Icelandophile.

The cramped, dark and oddly furnished house in which Hlymur and his mother live features a bath which, Q style, transfigures into a sofa as Hlymur steps naked out of it, in the middle of the lounge with his mother watching. Yet this is not enough to deter a visit from her Spanish friend, a flamenco dance instructor played with charm and sassyness in equal measure by Victoria Abril, who seems to stay for an extended amount of time for a house guest, seducing Hlymur during one of many drunken, debauched nights. All of this would be as nothing were it not for the fact that Abril’s character happens to be Hlymur’s mother’s lesbian lover – and now they’d like to have children.

Reykjavik is of course one of the most scenic capital cities on Earth and as such provides wonderful backdrops for the story to be played out against. This is a film about a group of people rather than a city or a culture, however, so while the dramatic and often very stark landscape in and around the city feature greatly, they are less intrinsic to the plot than one might expect. This bears testimony to the quality of the script and direction primarily, but the acting is wonderful too. A family reunion scene is simply killing, while the relationship between the three central characters is well developed and works exactly as it should.

Surely one of the most memorable scenes from the film is when Hlymur decides to lie down in the snow and die, Innuit style, but his plans are scuppered by rainfall melting his would-be tomb; coming close are the views of landmarks such as the controversial Hallgrimskirkja, the modern cathederal which dominates Reykjavik’s skyline or the final scene showing the principal shopping and eating street, Laugavegur, as the sun sets. But there is so much that is memorable about this film that repeat watching is simply a must. Go see; then go buy.

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