Back in 1974 the volcano on the small island of Vestmaneyjar of the coast of Iceland suddenly erupted in the middle of the night, devastating the community and laying to waste a large section of the area. After evacuating the island many people chose not to return but rather to make a new home on the mainland. The main characters in Volcano, Hannes
and his wife Anna
are one of these people. Settling in Reykjavik and raising two children Hannes has been working as a school janitor for decades and is finally reached the point of retirement. Dreading the prospects of doing nothing for the foreseeable future Hannes contemplates suicide but chickens out at the last minute. Hannes longs for the life on the island where he worked as a fisherman and tries desperately to hold on that dream by going out on his rickety small boat from time to time but when the boat nearly sinks that dream sinks with it.
After getting accosted by his children for being a complete ass hat to Anna he's finally able to crack through the crust of his heart and show his true feeling for his wife. But those happy times are short lived when Anna suffers a massive stroke and has to be hospitalized. Fearing both isolation from his kin and believing this to be a test to show that he can show affection to the ones he loves he decides to take care of Anna in their home much to the annoyance of his children.
Director Rúnar Rúnarsson has shown with his previous short films, the Oscar nominated The Last Farm, the multi awarded 2 Birds and his thesis short film Anna that he can tackle dire situations and human behavior with ease. Volcano takes its time telling the story, composes its frames beautifully and while the subject matter might turn many people away those who brave it will be mesmerized by its simple and effective storytelling.
The film relies on the performance of its lead and fortunately Rúnar chose the right man for the job. Theodor (Jar City) Júlíusson portrays Hannes as a frightened and pathetic bully at first that transforms in to desperation. Margrét Helga Jóhannsdóttir as the meek Anna is also terrific and has the difficult task of portraying a bed ridden stroke victim for most of the running time. This is a film that doesn't romanticize this illness even though the act of Hannes is romatic in itself. This film shows us the unpleasant side of this illness, adult diapers and all.
If I were to compare this film to anything I might call it a Terrence Malick lite, a slow burn with powerful scenes that keeps your attention through its seemingly long running time.
Volcano gathered some great reviews after its Cannes premier so look for it at festivals.
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