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Review: Volcano – Volcano (2011)

Directed by: | 99 minutes | | Actors: , , , , , , , , , ,

“Volcano” (“Eldfjall”) is a moving and soulfully intimate about a man who recently retired and whose life will be radically changed by a series of dramatic events. Hannes (Theodór Júlíusson) is a dreaded janitor at his school. On his last day at work, when he slams the door behind him (and receives a somewhat mocking farewell speech), he sees a black picture of the future. He plays the tough, indifferent bonk for the outside world, but inside he is a barrel full of suppressed emotions. On his way home he first wants to take his own life, but changes his mind.

At home he is an extremely obnoxious and sometimes rude guy who constantly criticizes his wife Anna (Margrét Helga Jóhannsdóttir). He has a bad relationship with his adult children Ari (Þorsteinn Bachmann) and Telma (Elma Lísa Gunnarsdóttir), they can and will hardly talk to him. His refuge is an old fishing boat with which he goes out to sea. That’s where his happiness lies and he can escape the rude old grunt that he always is. When his old boat threatens to sink due to a leak on the high seas, it seems as if he is at peace with that and surrenders to his then inevitable end. At the last moment he reflects (again) and manages to float by pumping hard. If he gets home earlier than expected due to the tugboat help, he hears a conversation between his children. This conversation is so confronting to him that he realizes that he has actually ruined the lives of his wife and children.

Hannes changes course in the clumsy way of a rough bump in the evening and with few words there is talk of rapprochement and some tenderness in a marriage that has long been completely rut. Then disaster strikes dramatically: Anna has a stroke and can no longer speak or move. The only emotion she can show is contained crying. Hannes decides to take care of the care, but gets fierce reproaches from his children who tell him that he only wants to do this out of guilt, after ruining her whole life. They want to have their mother taken care of in a nursing home. What follows is a moving story of a big clumsy man who, in all his clumsiness, lovingly takes care of his wife at home with the help of home care. When he realizes more and more that Anna’s fate will not change and Anna also cries constantly, he is faced with a devil’s dilemma….

Director Rúnar Rúnarsson makes a strong and impressive debut with this small story that has been subdued and tenderly filmed and develops at a leisurely pace in strong cinematographic visual language. Theodór Júlíusson plays the role of Hannes magisterially, but Margret Helga Johannsdottir is also convincing as his wife Anna. Magnificent landscape images and the characteristic Icelandic light reinforce the message of the story, to which the score contributes greatly. Volcano is an intense and poignant story that asks basic life questions about love, guilt, compassion and the dignity of life without judging yourself. The spectator can do the latter himself.

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