(SCREENED AT THE 2003 PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL.) A family drama from Iceland whose storyline sounds like a Scandinavian half-twist on KING LEAR, this effort surprises by being far more sprightly than its plot summary might have you believe. A sharply directed charmer, it hits exactly the right balance of drama and humor, and it should be a strong contender for the Best Foreign Film Oscar.The film concerns an aging patriarch who, defying modernization, refuses to sell off the fishery he founded, and as a result causes terrible dissention within his family. In its exploration of the eternal conflict of old and new, THE SEA touches on everything from the effects of immigration to the evils of Coca Cola. (The movie could do for Coke what Rain Man did for K-Mart.) Characterization is excellent; even the minor roles are well defined. It moves briskly, with plenty of amusing episodes—director Baltasar Kormakur has studied American film well. For most of the way it avoids the Bergmanesque doldrums that it occasionally threatens to lapse into; it’s debatable whether the melodramatic finale—dark family secrets suddenly revealed all over the place—does or does not cross that line.
Unfortunately, the mise en scene feels too crowded. There’s too much of everything going on in this film; subplots multiply like crazed bunnies, and a few of the smaller characters probably should have been excised altogether. But this isn’t incompetence, merely an excess of creative spirit. The film’s richness compensates for the messiness of its overall design.English-speaking audiences should find much to enjoy here. At the very least, one can’t say that Iceland has been over-represented in our theatres.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 San Francisco Film Festival. For more in the 2003 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.