The story of an existential insecurity masked by a yellow plot
Melville comes to mind when he explains that white is not necessarily the color of goodness, starting with that of Moby Dick’s skin. Here the white – of the fog, of the snow, of nature – is an element that hides more than reveals, confuses more than explains. And even if it never takes the form of the leviathan that haunts Ahab, the white that dominates much of the film, including the interiors, conveys a sense of restlessness and suspension. And that Icelandic director Hlynur Pálmason (here in his second feature, after Winter Brothers, unpublished by us) increases and expands, also confusing the temporal elements. Where we are? And when?
After the very first scene, where we see a car go off the road and where we will discover that a woman has died, a long series of short scenes, which always frame the same isolated house, seems to want to show us only the passage of time: the days and nights, the seasons or better the atmospheric events (wind, snow , sun, clouds) and every now and then we notice the action of men, who – in a long and very long shot – clean the brushwood, repair fences, work hard to make a house that is not at all welcoming habitable.
After having ended up inside this strange temporal labyrinth made up of continuous and short sequences, only then does the man arrive: it is Ingimundur (Ingvar Eggert Sigurosson), a retired policeman who explains to his granddaughter Salka (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir) how the house must come and that a strange inquisitor (who we will understand is the psychologist in charge of supporting him after the accident where his wife) describes himself as follows: “A man, a father, a grandfather, a policeman, a widower” giving his existential conditions an order – first the “man”, last the “widower” – which should put us on notice. There is something rotten in Iceland and the next hour and a half will try to tell us about it. But the viewer would be wrong to expect a yellow plot or something that looks like a thriller. And not because there are no twists and turns and in the end the blood has a specific role (at least iconographic) but because what interests the director is to tell that restlessness, that existential insecurity that can take people and keep them prisoner inside a kind of indistinct and indefinite cage as fog can be. Pálmason is not interested in giving answers, looking for certainties because this is not life where doubts are often much more numerous than possible answers.
In the small community where Ingimundur lives, who often finds himself at one or the other’s home to drink and celebrate (but you never know what), the truth always seems to escape. Everyone struggles to explain or clarify, questions and curiosities remain suspended in mid-air (as in the disturbing scene in which a friend tries to push the ex-policeman to explain himself and the niece involuntarily blocks him by playing a piece by Schumann, to in turn, an idea to introduce the theme of the betrayal that haunts the protagonist). Because when anger finally pushes Ingimundur to demand the truth about his wife’s past and to ask questions that cannot be avoided, then it is tragedy that breaks out, takes possession of people and explodes that violence that has been repressed for so long.
And in the end we witnessed the drama of a man being threatened in his masculine certainties? To the painful portrait of a community that prefers to close its eyes to the truth and continue to repress its instincts? To the journey into the darkness of a soul where the fog seems to have taken possession of everything to erase boundaries and distinctions? It is not easy to answer. Not even the psychologist inquisitor can do it, even asking simple and basic questions but who ends up getting answers that can’t explain anything. And what should have been “a white, white day” ends up closing first in the black of a dead-end tunnel and then in front of a memory that distances the truth even further.
October 27, 2021 (change October 27, 2021 | 20:51)