Review: 101 Reykjavik (2000)

101 Reykjavik (2000)

Directed by: Baltasar Kormakur | 89 minutes | comedy | Actors: Hilmir Snær Gudnason, Hanna María Karlsdóttir, Victoria Abril, Thrúdur Vilhjálmdóttir, Baltasar Kormákur, Olafur Darri Olafsson

Life in Iceland is not a complicated matter for main character Hlynur. Life is nothing more than ‘a respite from death’, and he resignedly accepts that. Life is not much more than drinking beer and surfing the internet. Hlynur views everything in life with slight amazement, and nothing, including his girlfriend Hofi, seems to leave a lasting impression on him. Until he meets Lola. At first she doesn’t change his view of the world, much to the annoyance of the lively Lola. He is simply concerned with doing nothing, or more specifically with “the nothing kind of nothing”. But when Lola and Hlynur are sentenced to each other the next New Year’s Eve, everything changes. What starts as a more or less normal night of partying, drinking and getting drunk ends in a hangover morning with two people who suspect what happened, but still don’t want to believe it. Only just recovered from the shock appears to have impregnated the lesbian Lola, Hlynur is told by his mother that she and Lola are having an affair, and even that they are going to raise a child together. So his child! Because an accident never comes alone, girlfriend Hofi also turns out to be pregnant.

Enough hilarity and sadness at the same time in ‘101 Reykjavík’, and there is really no better setting than cold Iceland to tell such a story credibly. That credibility is good, not only despite the bizarre story of a lesbian Spanish in Iceland and not only thanks to the beautiful decor, but also thanks to the way Gudnason acts, and the way everything is portrayed . The cold is almost palpable, but at the same time everything is so ‘wrapped up’ that the whole story seems like a kind of dream or fairy tale. And because it’s like a dream, it’s believable. After all, in some dreams everything goes wrong, and at the same time you continue to watch with resignation.

Although all kinds of personal disasters play out in Hlynur’s life, ‘101 Reykjavík’ remains a light-hearted film. To remind us of this, the song ‘Lola’ accompanies the scenes in almost childlike performances. On the one hand, that works well, because the film remains light-hearted, but at the same time the lightness also kills this film a bit. ‘101 Reykjavík’ will be nothing more than a cleverly made comedy with a bizarre story. Precisely because Hlynur is portrayed well, you also want to be able to empathize with his person and his environment, but the environment remains too far away to be able to do that. As a viewer, you don’t really empathize when Hlynur learns that Lola is pregnant, that his mother is a lesbian. You don’t feel the despair when Hlynur first hears that he is the father of Hofi’s child, and when he later learns that he is not the father after all, and that Hofi cheated on him with his best friend.

Anyway, it is probably not the intention at all to fully immerse yourself as a viewer in the romantic and dramatic events. The makers were probably much more interested in emphasizing the exceptional nature of those romantic and dramatic events. And it worked. The result: a comic drama with perhaps the characteristics of the main character Hlynur, charming but somehow unsatisfactory.

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