Saturday, March 03, 2007


This weeks movie:

I can’t decide why I like this movie.

I saw this film a few years ago and instantly liked it, but I’m not sure I can explain why. So, forgive me as a ramble for a while until I find the right thread.

You would like a movie, if it takes place in a different land (other than where you live), to give you some idea of what it’s like there. It’s not necessarily important to the storyline, or to character development, or to your enjoyment of the film. But it’s nice when it happens. This movie, 101 REYKJAVIK, more than most I’ve seen, really conveys a sense of place, and what it’s really like to be there. In this case, it’s Iceland.

I’m told by people in the know, that I’m right about this. This movie will show you just what Iceland is all about. It has nothing to do with the storyline, or to the characters, or to your enjoyment of the film. But it’s nice, nevertheless. I’m sure it’s not a complete picture, but it is a glimpse beyond the picturesque snowy land travelogue version that you’re usually shown.

Iceland is a fascinating place that I hope to be able to visit someday. This film actually made me want to move there – to relocate, but I understand it’s not that easy. Nevertheless, here are some interesting facts about Iceland you might not be aware of (don’t worry – I’ll get to the movie in a minute).
  1. Iceland is one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world. It has the highest number of broadband internet connections in the world. They’re probably reading this right now!
  2. It's the cultural capital of the North Atlantic, and they have a flourishing film industry.
  3. They have one of the highest literacy rates in the world. Smart people know what they’re doing.
  4. Lowest child mortality rate. Lowest poverty rate.
  5. The population of the entire country is less than a half million.
  6. They rank 5th in the world in terms of gross national product (GNP) per capita, and 2nd in human development.
  7. The president of Iceland’s phone number is in the book – and you can call him! Try doing that in your country!
  8. Their cars run on hydrogen and the bulk (over 99%) of their energy comes from hydro-electric and geothermal. While we sit here complaining that “hydrogen cars and geothermal energy is a pipe dream”, “the technology is decades away”, “we won’t see it in our lifetime”, “it’s too hard, it’s too expensive”, and other bulls**t excuses that we – the “greatest technology producers in the world” – can only come up with, Iceland is doing it right now!
  9. Drinking and sex are national pastimes. I’ll repeat that. Drinking and sex are national pastimes. I don’t see anything wrong with that, do you? They seem to have gotten everything else right, I figure they deserve that.
  10. Hot springs! The Gulf Stream! Fjords!

So now the story: 30 year old Hlynur is what some may call “a real slacker”. He lives with his mother, has no job, and because he collects unemployment compensation, has little incentive to find a job. He spends his time drinking during the day with his daytime drinking buddies (mostly old retired men), and his nights drinking and carousing with his buddies (who mostly have day jobs). When he isn’t drinking, he spends time downloading porn on his broadband internet connection, and when he’s not doing that – he has his girlfriend.

The story makes us like its hero, Hlynur, even though he’s often unlikable. His girlfriend adores him, but he mistreats her or worse, ignores her. He’s not a bad guy, but he's having a life crisis. He has absolutely no idea whatsoever, what to do with himself. But change is in the air.

Without giving away too much of the story, let’s just say that it all works out in the end. Getting there, of course, is the fun part. It’s a comedy after all. Not a laugh-a-minute kind of comedy, but a realistic one, laced with dramatic moments and tension and conflict that ultimately lead to a satisfying watch. There’s a bit of sex in it. It’s not gratuitous, after all it’s a national pastime, but if that bothers you, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The dialogue is in both Icelandic and in English. Why English? The story involves a Spanish dance instructor. She doesn’t speak Icelandic and Hlynur and his mother don’t speak Spanish – but they all speak some English.

So, have I figured out why I like this movie? Yes! Because it’s good!


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