Nói Albinói (Nói the Albino)
Not rated, 93 min. Directed by Dagur Kári. Starring Tómas Lemarquis, Thröstur Léo Gunnarsson, Elín Hansdóttir, Anna Fridriksdottir, Hjalti Rögnvaldsson.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 7, 2004
Two Icelandic releases landing in Austin in one month’s time? It must be summer. Like the recent icy-hot import The Seagull’s Laughter, this equally bewitching film from the greater, whiter North mines frozen veins of resentment and quirky, black-ice humor, but unlike Ágúst Gudmundsson’s Fifties-era morality tale, Nói Albinói concerns itself with the tiny, emotionally barren non-events that make up what passes for the life of the title character, Nói (Lemarquis), a teenage albino youth who lives with his grandmother (Fridriksdottir) in a tiny village on one of his country’s desolate, aurora-borealis-haunted fjords. Looming over the village, and the film, like some ghostly giant, is a huge glacial mountain. It blots out half the sky and serves as a metaphor for the both stifled and blockaded nature of Nói’s existence. Nói is 17 years old and something of a wastrel. He fills his days avoiding school, where he is bored (and no wonder – at one point his teacher uses the delicate art of mayonnaise-making as a way to teach French) and ignored, roaming the frozen wastes with a shotgun, firing off shells and bringing down huge, menacing ice flows with a single shot of buck, and tiptoeing around his estranged, alcoholic father Kiddi (Gunnarsson). It’s not much of a life, especially when the only advice his pop can offer is to try to win the hearts of girls by inquiring if they’ve put on weight lately. Nói, whose albinism mirrors that of his surroundings, is a loner in the Jim Stark vein – although it’s never explicitly stated, there’s the feeling that he’s had run-ins with the law, and so when the sexy, brooding new girl Iris (Hansdóttir) moves to town ("Too much trouble in the big city," her father tells Nói), this rebel with little cause falls hard for the equally wayward beauty. In love, or lust, or more likely from sheer boredom, the two begin a tentative courtship. They break into the local natural history museum, where Nói tries to jimmy the lock while Iris just tosses a rock through the window, and make plans to run away together to Hawaii. But then the local fortune-teller reads Nói’s tea leaves and tells him, "There’s nothing but death in this cup." Teen angst, indeed. Nói Albinói proceeds at a, no pun intended, glacial pace, moving with exactly the speed of Nói’s life, which is to say very little, but the film is possessed of something more important: a bone-weary honesty at the travails of being young, different, and stuck somewhere you don’t want to be. Rasmus Videbaek’s stunning cinematography bundles the entire film in a ghostly bluish glow that’s both lovely to look at and achingly despondent. (You half expect the Howard Hawks’ Thing from Another World to come ambling over the endless snow banks eager to hitch a ride to Hawaii with Nói.) Lemarquis, as Nói, has a stoic and silent tenderness to him, and Hansdóttir’s Iris is the picture of pensive sluggishness. But then all that cold, cold snow slows you down, both inside and out, until the only thing moving is your heart.