Parents review and trailer
I know there is no review for Ragnar Bragason’s “Children”, the film that came before this one, on this site but that doesn’t really matter because the two sister films only slightly connect story and character vise so there is no need to have seen Children first. Click here. for a review over at european-films.net.
For those who don’t know, Children and Parents are the works of director Ragnar Bragason and theatre group Vesturport. The team pulled a Mike Leigh and worked on their characters for over a year and then formed a storyline for them and intertwined. At first the plan was to make one film called “Kvikindi” (roughly “Bastard” in English) but with the amount of footage shot and characters involved they saw they would never be able to pull of just one film so they cut together two features about the same basic subject, the relationship between parents and their children and how things from the past tend to bite you in the ass when you least expect it.
The two films focus on three main characters each, so six in all, in all walks of society. In Parents we are following the dentist Oscar, played by “This-close-to-have-been-cast-as-Darth-Maul” Ingvar E. Sigurdsson, who is on a quest to make his wife pregnant. The asshole stockbroker Einar, played far too convincingly by Vikingur Kristjansson, who’s inability to function in a family surrounding have moved him to a hotel room away from his wife and child. And finally Katrin Rose, Nanna Kristin Magnusdottir, who has returned from Sweden after eight years to try and connect with her son who has been raised by his grandmother for all these years.
We follow their stories but only two of them are connected in any way, Katrin Rose is hired as an assistant at the dental office where Oscar works and finds out that they have something in common, something that Katrin doesn’t want to admit but Oscar doesn’t remember because he was drunk when that particular incident happened years ago.
Oscar and family are doing well, they live in their upper middle class neighbourhood but Oscar’s attempts to get his wife to have a child are met with a cold shoulder. She has two teenagers on her own from a former relationship but Oscar wants at least one that he can call his flesh and blood. Her kids don’t respect him very much and she hates how he bottles up all his feelings and is never able to raise his voice and be a man when the situation calls for it.
Ingvar plays Oscar as a loveable buffoon, awkward and apologetic and never really able to channel his feelings that result in screaming outbursts in his car when no one’s around. Ingvar has never been as good on the screen as he is in this film and portrays Oscar accurately and believably.
For years the main source of income for the Icelandic economy was fishing but in recent years, capital investment has been slowly taking over with Icelandic companies buying up large corporations abroad by the droves. This has resulted in increasing numbers of stockbrokers swarming the job market and now we have these, arrogant, young cat, money men prowling the streets in their overpriced cars, thinking they are the cock of the walk. Einar is exactly that guy. Obsessed with his work he never has time for his family and as a result he has moved out and in to a hotel room in town. He’s one of those guys you can’t reason with, he’s always right and you are always wrong and everything should be done on his terms. But in reality he loves his wife and his daughter (played by Vikingur’s real life daughter) and wants to make things better but he can never get over this hurdle of having to listen to the opinions of others. Vikingur Kristjansson is simply brilliant as Einar and it’s apparent that he did his job when the researched for the role. Einar’s inability to make his marriage work is both sad and hilarious and when he “breaks into” his house after his wife has left for work, just to be near them, even though they’re not there, is touching and sweet.
The most dramatic part of the film is the story of Katrin Rose. Katrin has moved back to Iceland after having spent eight years in Sweden, supposedly working as a photographer. She has moved back to her mother who has raised Katrin’s son all these years and needless to say their relationship is distant. Well distant would be the right word, he hates her and really wants nothing to do with her. But Katrin makes an effort to reconnect with her child, gets a job at Oscars dental office and then her past catches up with her in more ways than one. Nanna Kristin portrays Katrin as a sort of weakling, constantly competing with her own mother for the love of her son and afraid to stand up to the old bag when needed. This is the first time I’ve seen Nanna Kristin on the screen and she does a hell of a job with this mousy little girl who’d just sooner give up than having to take action.
These tales meld together with ease and one never gets the feeling that they were trying to cram them together for the hell of it. Ragnar Bragason directs these stories expertly and I’m sure the task of editing this all together was daunting and hard. But as with Children he has managed to make the most powerful and truthful dramas I’ve seen coming out of Iceland in a long time if not ever. Unlike Children though, which was a heavy duty drama that dealt with dark subjects, Parents is much lighter in tone and character. Ingvar and Vikingur are responsible for most of the laughs in the film but Nanna’s story really doesn’t have room for humor. It’s only when her story connects with Ingvar’s story that you can smile over the awkward situations.
The black and white HD video form of the film helps bring out the starkness of the drama and is shot beautifully by Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson, who shot both films and previously shot Baltasar Kormak’s Jar City which won him an Edda award for cinematography. I also want to mention the music by Petur Thor Benediktsson which is both beautiful and haunting and helps set the mood for the piece.
I highly recommend this film and it is going to be shown at the Rotterdam film festival which starts today and if you can’t see it there or at any of the other film festivals that it is slated to appear in the two films will be released on DVD over here in late spring or early summer in one consumer friendly package.
Oh and by the by. Here is the trailer for Parents.
Parents trailer (embedded flash)