Saturday, May 26, 2007

101 Reykjavik (2000)

101 Reykjavik (Baltasar Kormákur, 2000)

Hlynur (Hilmir Snær Guðnason) is in his late-twenties yet he hasn't worked a day in his life. He lives with his mother (Hanna María Karlsdóttir), who still purchases his underwear for him. He rationalizes his voluntary unemployment by saying that at 16, he loses child support but gains unemployment benefits which will accrue until he is old enough to collect welfare. He is not only physically near-sighted, but also adopts that with his philosophy in living life. He has no plans exceeding the weekend, which is mostly spent with friends inside a crowded bar wherein patrons exchange kisses, hugs, and bodily fluids in careless abandon.

That is Reykjavik, the capital to Europe's disattached offspring. Hlynur claims that no one wants to live in Reykjavik and its only residents are those who were born and unfortunately stuck there. The streets are empty and covered daily with inches of piled-up snow. The only thing worse than the city is the country wherein the upper middle crust fancifully brag about their sofa sets, Toyotas, and china imported from Glasgow. It's a city frozen by its fated geographic location, and the residents of the address of 101 Reykjavik are its prime specimens of victims of the city's inflicted ennui.

Hlynur's on-and-off girlfriend Hófí (Þrúður Vilhjálmsdóttir) desperately longs for him to return her consistent advances; yet as Hlynur adamantly narrates, he is sexually dysfunctional. That doesn't stop him from doing the rounds of a bumming bachelor in snowy Iceland. The film's start which, with admirable persistence, gives us a drastic overview of routinary Reykjavik living, may be a little bit too tedious --- with Hlynur's witty and sometimes politically incorrect voice-over quips to do the lone job of keeping me strangled with the city residents' curse of perpetual boredom.

When flamenco dancer Lola (Victoria Abril) suddenly enters Hlynur's life through his mother who decides to come out and express her affections for the lesbian Spaniard, things start to change. There's a metaphoric thawing of everything that has been frozen --- life, sex, plans, and maturity. The boredom of Icelandic day-to-day living has reached its end, and Hlynur is forced to re-think and re-assess the way he has been living.

101 Reykjavik is supposedly based on factual events, yet the contrivances in the film are far too fantastically convenient for cinematic exploitation, that I certainly think there's a bit of tweaking done to maximize the story. However, through the film's open-minded utilization of expanded sketches of Icelandic living, director Baltasar Kormákur was able to adequately address the concerns of the direction-less, with the added bonus of making the entire exercise farcical, funny and very entertaining.

Think about it, the plot of 101 Reykjavik could've served its purpose as a downer drama. However, in the hands of Kormákur, depression is prevented and what's left is a comical (probably a bit sitcom-ish) and light-hearted confection, which is much-suited for the tastes of its audiences in these trying times.

No comments: