Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nói albínói (2003) A Film by Dagur Kari

In movies the coming-of-age genre has been formed, reformed, recycled, copied, and in the case of Noi the Albino, refreshed. In an Icelandic village sitting at the foot of a massive glacier, a bald, skeletal teenage misfit named Nói lives a commonly angst-ridden lifestyle. Amidst his monotonous day-to-day offerings, which are limited to trudging around the frost-bitten streets and sitting devoid of all spirit in his school desk, he finds few serene moments to kick it in his basement's sub-floor space and ponder the existence he wishes he could escape to. When he meets the new gas station attendant Iris and finds her charm nearly irresistible, a slimmer of hope presents itself. However, destined to follow in the footsteps of his slacker father, Nói's attempts at escaping his bleak life are simply clumsy and ill planned.

In a style reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch, Director Dagur Kari finds deadpan humor in depressing and unconventional characters, but also showcases the ability to shift narrative tones with deftness. The film finds a healthy medium between its offbeat, slow-paced romance, its absurdly comic moments, and its tragic digressions. Although Nói is rather methodically-paced as a narrative, it is always enduring. This can be attested to the overall atmosphere of the film, which Kari seems to have a personal relationship with. As I've seen in numerous films and photographs, Iceland is an absolutely gorgeous country. Kari doesn't necessarily fixate on the landscape in the way that a film like Heima did, but he establishes it as a ruthless entity, one that is a living, breathing, but forever stagnate asset to the character's lives. They plan their clothing around it, their jobs, and it seems that their personalities reflect it as well; the village's inhabitants are all calm, introverted, and perhaps cynical. Surely this quiet atmosphere makes it mark on the film, literally when Nói describes the animal museum as being the wildest place in town, and figuratively in the peacefully frigid panoramas set to melancholy guitar picks. Despite the film's mundane surface details, it is continually absorbing and a triumph of independent filmmaking.

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