The Sea

Baltasar Kormakur (101 REYKJAVIK)'s darkly humorous dysfunctional family saga is rooted in the raging controversy over a system of fishing quotas that regulates Iceland's premier industry, but you don't need to be familiar with the complicated situation to enjoy the film. The characters are as familiar as those in Shakespeare: There's aging, Lear-like patriarch...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Baltasar Kormakur (101 REYKJAVIK)'s darkly humorous dysfunctional family saga is rooted in the raging controversy over a system of fishing quotas that regulates Iceland's premier industry, but you don't need to be familiar with the complicated situation to enjoy the film. The characters are as familiar as those in Shakespeare: There's aging, Lear-like patriarch Thordur (Gunnar Eyjolfsson), who calls his three grown children to the remote fishing village where they were born to announce future plans for his once successful fish processing factory. Thordur's embittered eldest son, Haraldur (Sigurdur Skulason), is being prodded to depose the old man by Aslaug (Elva Osk Olafsdottir), his sublimely tacky wife who has all the diabolical ambition of Lady Macbeth. And Haraldur's younger brother, aspiring songwriter Agust (Hilmir Snaer Gudnason), is, like Hamlet, tormented by the knowledge that his father was incestuously trysting with his dying wife's sister, Kristin (Kristbjorg Kjeld), whom he married before the corpse had even cooled. The plot, meanwhile, is pure Chekov. Like Madame Ranevskaya and her cherry orchard, Thordur is being pressured him to sell the family's faltering fishery to the same greedy corporate conglomerates that are buying up all the local fishermen's quotas, which grant individual fishing vessels the right to catch certain species of fish and can be sold for enormous sums of money. Agust, who's flown in for the weekend from Paris with his French girlfriend, Francoise (Helene de Fougerolles); his sister, Ragnheidur (Gudrun S. Gisladottir), who arrives with her upwardly mobile husband (Sven Nordin) and sullen son in tow; and Haraldur, who's been hatching a devious plan with Aslaug, all try to convince their father to sell his stake in the industry. But Thordur isn't listening; he feels too great of a responsibility to the community that depends on his factory and fears that a corporate take-over will destroy the village. And besides, that's not why he called them all to his side; Thordur has a more important announcement to make about their futures, if his embattled family and failing business can survive the tumultuous weekend ahead. The film may be specific to contemporary economic concerns, but its themes are as timeless as Iceland's frozen, otherworldly landscape. Old family secrets and fresh entanglements snake through the intricate plot like the tendrils of a particularly poisonous strain of ivy that flourishes only in the hot-house atmosphere of tiny towns, whatever the outside temperature.

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Baltasar Kormakur (101 REYKJAVIK)'s darkly humorous dysfunctional family saga is rooted in the raging controversy over a system of fishing quotas that regulates Iceland's premier industry, but you don't need to be familiar with the complicated situation to… (more)

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