Ginger Nuts of Horror
STRIKING CINEMATOGRAPHY and AMBIGUOUS storytelling make for a beguiling film
Gunnar is an academic approaching middle age, in a relationship with a much younger man, Einar. When they split up Einar seems to be talking about suicide. A few months later Gunnar (in bed with an even younger man) is woken in the night by a mysterious phone call and he sets off to the cabin in the wilderness where Einar is.
The relationship stutteringly rekindles but both men have secrets, and there seems to be someone else lurking around in the night. There's a suspicious neighbour, a creepy old man and a sinister hitchhiker, a murder, or perhaps a suicide, and possibly a ghost.
I almost don't want to say anything else and risk detracting from the experience. We see everything through Gunnar's unreliable eyes so for a lot of the film we have only a vague idea what's going on, yet that uncertainty adds to the film's charm. There are no silly jump scares, rather a carefully built creeping dread made worse by our lack of confidence in the narrator.
What makes this film really special is the photography - Iceland has never looked so beautiful. The vistas are vast and spectacular and almost unbearably gorgeous, yet cold and impersonal and dangerous, perfectly reflecting the relationship between the two men. One imagines the inside of Gunnar's head being miles of flat volcanic plain with treacherous rifts and snow-capped hills in the distance.
If I have a complaint, it's that it shied away from controversy and offence, in a self-conscious way. There is nudity but it's carefully choreographed so that we only see glimpses of a buttock; there is a sweet sex scene that cuts off to (an albeit stunningly beautiful) shot of the aurora borealis over the cabin. And paedophilia hangs over the film like a turgid shadow but is never explored. Perhaps the rules in Iceland are more strict but for me those things slightly detracted from the veracity of the film.
This is an absolutely beautiful film, highly recommended.