2000, NR, 88 min. Directed by Baltasar Kormákur. Starring Hilmir Snær Gudnason, Hanna Maria Karlsdottir, Victoria Abril, Baltasar Kormákur.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Feb. 1, 2002
“Even the ghosts are bored here,” says Hilynur (Gudnason), of his Icelandic hometown. Hilynur is pushing 30, and still lives with his mother in his boyhood bedroom. What little he earns comes from the public dole. He fritters the days away purusing porn online, and the evenings hanging out with his pals at the pub. His mental attitude toward life seems about as bleak and frozen as the dark, sub-Arctic landscape that surrounds him. 101 Reykjavik, however, is a comedy, and Hilynur serves as a likable antihero. The movie is based on the popular novel by Hallgrimur Helgason Menemsha, and marks the directing debut of actor Baltasar Kormakur (who plays a supporting role as a friend of Hilynur). Kormakur shows a lot of visual flourish and confidence as a first-time director, but the story's real heart lies in its romantic comedy. Hilynur's amusing voiceover narration guides the story, and things heat up when a friend of his mother's, Lola (played by Abril, the sexy star of many an Almodovar film), moves into their flat. Before long, Hilynur's mom (Karlsdottir) announces she is a lesbian and in love with Lola. Yet Hilynur also dabbles in a flirtation with Lola. And there is also his casual bed partner from the bar, who says she is carrying his baby. 101 Reykjavik is best at displaying the quotidian blur of life in this frozen north clime. Jokes and humor keep the inner fires burning. (Why do Marlboros have white filters in America and yellow in Europe? So Keith Richards knows which continent he's on.) The film's score by Damon Albarn of Blur and Einar Orn Benediktsson of the Sugarcubes also provides lots of delightful resonance, especially when chords from their ambient-reggae version of the old Kinks standard “Lola” waft through the picture. The story, perhaps, might have benefited from a little more narrative punch than is currently present and a more creative resolution. Yet the tone of the film is in keeping with its most resounding image: Hilynur lying in the snow with a cigarette dangling from his mouth as the suicide note on his chest blows away in the wind as he wakes up.