Even as COVID-19 ravages the world, who hasn’t thought about leaving self-isolation and finding a safe, secure Garden of Eden. What price would anyone pay to do so?
Writer-director Snævar Sölvason has crafted a multilayered production that is as thought-provoking as it is marvellously paced: the tension in the closing sequence being the perfect foil for beautifully rendered coda (which features a spectacular Melancholia-like moment).
The film’s “glue” from the opening frames is a pair of adorable, bare babies whose smiles delight even as they explore themselves and an egg. Will the egg, hatch, crack or be cooked? It is to discover.
From his first appearance wearing only a towel, desperately running through the streets with police in hot pursuit, Hansel Eagle delivers a fine metamorphosis playing Óliver—grower of magic mushrooms and the like, which has caught the attention of Icelandic law enforcement.
Slightly stretching credibility (but if not, there’s no film), he takes cover in a house only to find an over-dosed woman underneath the bubbles in the bathtub. With obvious knowledge of CPR, Oli revives the shaved-head beauty. Telma Huld Jóhannesdóttir is a marvel as Olivia (Ola), who has eschewed her love of ballet (nicely demonstrated in a scene where the children’s part of the chorus, reinforces the baby motif) for the mind-altering world of drugs.
The sudden couple seek refuge with Ola’s dealers Gunni (Einar Viðar G. Thoroddsen) and Ronni (Gunnar Marís). The former being amenable to “stay the night,” the latter exacting a price for the privilege as Ola owes them cash. The two men have their eyes set on Cuba once “three more crops” have been sold. (A nice touch in their digs is the famous portrait of Kramer on a wall.)
All of this leads to the epicentre of hard drugs. The Fly (gruffly done up by Arnar Jónsson) is a no-nonsense drug lord while his son, Tumi (Hjalti P. Finnsson is appropriately menacing) combines rampant bullying with a touch of lavender in his DNA. But before you can say “Let’s make some serious cash and move to Nirvana” Oli and Ola morph from pickup agents to dealers.
From there, the action varies. A number of montages held together by music (being the Christmas season, “Sleigh Ride” is featured as the new dealers go from rags to riches; the Fly’s birthday party has an upbeat pop song to add to the revelry) interspersed with more dramatic fare: a visit to Vigga (Tinna Sverrisdóttir) and her at-death’s-door mother has a surprising twist. The “lovin” daughter has stolen most of her mother’s prescriptions and asks the pair to traffic them for her. Surely this is only fiction!
Inevitably there’s a falling-out with Tumi et all. Oli and Ola (having “found” a cache of high-grade cocaine—ironically the property of Tumi) opt to go into business for themselves. This decision is made after a heated argument which reveals that Oli has come full circle from small-time psychedelic seller to big-time supplier to the rich. He completes the transformation when he demands revenge on Tumi for the elimination of Gunni and Ronni.
One of many links to other films that readily serve to reinforce the narrative, the cartoon, Birds of War comes into play: Orphan birds Olivia and Oliver band together to take on a brutal vulture, and yes, there is an egg in the snippet that is shown…
The assault on Tumi-land is superbly staged with excitement to burn. Its twists and turns are exceptionally well-conceived and rendered.
Adding much to the entire production is the pulsating, bass-infused original score from Magnús Jóhann Ragnarsson. Cinematographer-editor Logi Ingimarsson keeps the eye engaged from stem to stern.
With this film, Sölvason has demonstrated a mastery of his craft. There is so much depth beyond the surface narrative, that repeated viewings can only reveal more, and never forget to look up to see beyond the world you’re in. JWR