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Review: The Sea

The Sea’s breathtaking establishing shots are enough to make each passing crisis-ridden scene more trying than the last.

The Sea
Photo: Palm Pictures

With his previous festival favorite 101 Reykjavík and, now, The Sea, it’s evident that filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur is fully content pimping his particular love/hate relationships with the alternately beautiful and harsh landscapes of Iceland in as many different masochistic scenarios as possible. The Sea, based on a play by Ólafur Haukur Símonarson, is really not much more than a histrionic little take on the family reunion genre, with a lot less “the feeling that we have” and a lot more “fuck the pain away.”

The basic concept is that the family patriarch, Thor∂ur (Gunnar Eyjólfsson, strolling around bowlegged and all stoic like Henrik Malberg’s immortal Morten Borgen in Dreyer’s Ordet), feels the need to call and gather his kin, the adult children from the two sisters he married (one after another). The dramatic tension focuses on the important piece of information that he plans on reveal to the whole, unhappy, bitter, backstabbing, sarcastic lot. When it’s revealed halfway through the film that none of them are getting one red Kronur when he dies, it’s hardly surprising given the incessant barrage of scenes focusing on dysfunctional paranoiacs lamenting how their lives are being wasted in the no man’s land of rural Iceland.

If the general unpleasantness sometimes melts into mordant humor, the level of contempt for his characters is driven home and made unmistakable every time that Kormákur juxtaposes a tantrum with a stunning shot of rolling foothills and turquoise-tinged natural spa pools under gauzy sheets of cotton-ball snow falling, stressing their pettiness in the face of such natural beauty. Not unlike Im Kwon-taek’s Chihwaseon, The Sea’s breathtaking establishing shots are enough to make each passing crisis-ridden scene more trying than the last.

Cast: Gunnar Eyjólfsson, Hilmir Snær Gu∂nason, Hélène de Fougerolles, Kristbjörg Kjeld, Sven Nordin, Gu∂rún Gísladóttir, Sigur∂ur Skúlason, Elva Ósk Ólafsdóttir Director: Baltasar Kormákur Screenwriter: Baltasar Kormákur Distributor: Palm Pictures Running Time: 109 min Rating: R Year: 2002 Buy: Video

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