The Seagull's Laughter

Icelandic writer-director Agust Gudmundsson adds a hint of mystery to this light melodrama about a strangely spellbinding woman who returns to her hometown after several years in America. The result is a beguiling mix. Before she left home for the United States at the end of World War II, newly married to an American serviceman, Freya (Margret Vilhjalmsdottir)...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Icelandic writer-director Agust Gudmundsson adds a hint of mystery to this light melodrama about a strangely spellbinding woman who returns to her hometown after several years in America. The result is a beguiling mix. Before she left home for the United States at the end of World War II, newly married to an American serviceman, Freya (Margret Vilhjalmsdottir) was a chubby girl, often the butt of children's cruel jokes. Now, two months after her husband's death, Freya's back in town and fully transformed: She's a glamorously thin fashion plate, her long red tresses wrapped in a elegant chignon and her seven suitcases stuffed full of Fifth Avenue fashions. With nowhere else to go, Freya moves in with her grandmother's best friend, Juliana (Kristbjorg Kjeld), and Juliana's

family, including Disa (Bara Lyngdal Magnusdottir), Dodo (Edda Bjorg Eyjolfsdottir) and 11-year-old Agga (Ugla Egilsdottir). The women are bewitched by Freya's couture style and strange beauty, but Agga, forced to share her bedroom with her new "cousin," doesn't trust her; she senses something evil in Freya's ice-blue eyes. The seasons change and Freya settles into dull town life as best she can; she gets a job at the chemist's shop, handing out alcohol to the town drunks until the dashing local policeman, Magnus (Hilmir Snaer Gudnason) — who has his eye on her in more ways than one — kindly asks her to stop. Agga's distrust turns to admiring curiosity; one night she even follows Freya to the rocky crags where fairies and elves are said to dance in the moonlight. The ladies of the town's upper crust, however, consider Freya and her family working-class and beneath notice. They're less easily swayed by her suspect charms, particularly after Freya is seen at a local function brazenly flirting with rich Theodor (Heino Ferch), fiance of the magistrate's daughter. As romance begins to stir between Theodor and Feya, Agga becomes a go-between between the town's most eligible bachelor and this strange woman from lands unknown, a siren whose song seems to intoxicate men and empower women. Beautifully shot against Iceland's frozen landscape, the film is nearly as spellbinding as its strange heroine, whose essential mystery Gudmundsson preserves until the film's final frames. Young Egilsdottir, a fresh-faced sprite whose smirk perfectly captures the essence of mischievous adolescence, is equally impressive. (In Icelandic, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Icelandic writer-director Agust Gudmundsson adds a hint of mystery to this light melodrama about a strangely spellbinding woman who returns to her hometown after several years in America. The result is a beguiling mix. Before she left home for the United S… (more)

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