Friday, May 8, 2009

Nói Albínói: Why Iceland > Greenland

The one good thing about foreign films taking so long to get to the domestic market is nothing. There is nothing good about lag. The few films like Let the Right One In and British exports get to the US right on time, but even a film like Hunger is released half a year later than it should. More often than not the foreign releases that make it to the US in a near timely manner are shoved away into art house theatres I'd have to drive three hours out of my way to get to. It's bogus. 

The relevance of this complaint is slightly lost when I'm talking about a film released in 2003. It did take a year to get a limited run in the US, and I couldn't have seen it without traveling to New York or California anyway, but that was over four years back. Now is the time to talk about how grateful I am to live in an age where I'm even able to glimpse independent Icelandic films in the comfort of my own dorm-bed. 

The story is of Noi, a seventeen year old boy with albinism. I think. It's hard to see the effects this has on his pigmentation when just about everyone else in the film is as pale as he is. Such are the trials what come with living in Iceland. Noi is a quintessential rebel without a cause. He skips class, sends tape recorders in his place, and keeps his demeanor smart-assed and fast talking. He's a cut up. His struggle to live in a world with the dead beatest of dads, an unforgiving academic system, and an alluring gas station maiden is poignant, rich in humor, and sadly just under an hour and a half long. 

Getting into what makes the movie hilarious would be ruining a few major surprises. I don't do that. Alright. Here's something that doesn't spoil the movie: Noi tries to hold up a bank with a shot gun, only to have the teller ask him to stop joking around, and have the gun snatched away from him by the manager. Then the manager tells him to beat it before he calls the cops. Seconds later Noi returns to make a withdrawal. See? See what I'm taking about? That's great, that is. 

If I have to get into comparisons, I will. I'm going to get into comparisons whether I have to or not. The tone is about on par with Rushmore or Rocket Science. The lead character, a precocious scamp of a boy, goes through great personal changes with an ample mix of hilarity and sincerity. Awkward moments aren't laughable, they're... laugh-with-able with the character. Rooting for their struggles to end is never questioned, because they're insanely likable. With Noi (Tomas Lemarquis) he can win over the audience with a slight downward turn of the head, and a look up from his puppy-boy eyes. And his love interest is a absolute doll. Not in the doll-like use of the word 'doll'. None of those blonde-haired soulless barbies for Noi. 

Now onto to look of the film. Cold. Almost everything in the movie conjures up the feeling of ice. The colors are all shades of greens and blues and whites. Whenever a yellow crops up it's the most tepid yellow you could imagine. I think I counted the use of red three times. The film is cold, and it reminds you it's cold. The only occasion the film allows a bit of warmth is when Noi has tucked himself away in his private cellar, where he goes to get away from the world. Makes sense. 

I'm glad I watched it. I'm glad Dagur Kari, the director and writer, has made more films for me to find. And is releasing one this year. Which means... I'll expect to see it in 2011. Good job. 

 - Eric T. Voigt, Outside?

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