Wealthy, aging patriarch Thordur assembles his scattered heirs to discuss the future of the family fishery. But bringing everyone together unleashes a storm of long-repressed sexual abuse, lingering suspicions, sibling rivalries and incestuous passions. Ultimately, it's a heartless battle between the past and the future that culminates in a night of explosive rage.Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Second-time Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur presents "The Sea", a film that, if you have a positive view of people, will make you think a second time about human qualities.
As this is only the fourth film I see from Iceland, my view of Icelandic cinema has not changed- it's very good, actually. Kormákur continues where he left off with "101 Reykjavik", and plunges into Ólafur Haukur Símonarsons play with fierce misanthropy. There are two characters with a few positive traits (Morten and the French woman, forgot her name), but these two are outsiders and only supporting characters. I hated each and every member of this family, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the film, which is a peek into the most base instincts of human behaviour: adultery, greed, racism, incest, apathy and hate. "The Sea" is a bit over the top at times, but it is never ruined by digressions or by lack of reality with which it treats its characters.
The Icelandic people seem to be treated by their directors (again I'm generalizing a bit since Fridrik Thor Fridriksson and Kormákur are the only directors I know) as a very tough, ruggish people who don't let mistreatment ruin their joy of life. Early in the film, the youngest son of Thordur (the patriarch and owner of the fishing industry), tells his French girlfriend that when his sister was raped as a young girl, their father reacted more aggressively towards her because she became upset, than with the rapist who ruined his only (or is it?..) daughter's life. "An idiot raped by an idiot", their father claimed. This statement is very characteristic of the film. The plot is constructed around Thordur, now an ageing man who wants to gather all his children and their families to tell them something important: They are greedy and they'll get nothing from him. His children with their partners, his wife and his mother are then gathered at his house, and we get to know them bit by bit, until we learn how they became this family and then your sympathy will just decline. The opening hour is extremely funny, which is one of this film's best assets. But it's funny in a cruel way, and the cruelty is just escalating throughout the motion picture, until there is nothing but cruelty left at the end. Thordur's mother, Kata, is portrayed as very funny, but totally ignorant of the world and she is not nice to the people around her. Thordur's three legitimate children were born by a dying mother, and throughout her illness Thordur kept his wife's sister (Kristin) as his mistress, in their house. The children's mother's sister (Kristin) is presently Thordur's wife, and she also has a grown up daughter (Maria), who is in love with Thordur's youngest son (I've forgot a lot of names, even if I saw the film yesterday! sorry), even though they grew up as brother and sister. This theme of incest is perhaps the most sickening theme in the film, but it's nice compared with the greed of Thordur's children and Thordur's inhuman, megalomaniac behaviour towards his kids.
This is a film which is at times hard to watch because of the uncomfortable human relationships. But the actors, the direction and the cinematography is impeccable; brilliant. Jean-Louis Vialard has captured Iceland's wild but beautiful nature magnificently: especially when Thordur's daughter Ragnheidur, her Norwegian husband (Morten) and her son drive through the mountains to get home to her father- the photography struck me as superb. The sense of a decaying village is perfectly portrayed by Kormákur. The themes of this film is reminiscient of a master like Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and it struck me as just as misanthropic as Ulrich Seidls brilliant "Dog Days".
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