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101 Reykjavík

Reviewed By Thom
Posted 10/03/01 17:40:35

"Generate some heat on a cold Icelandic night."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Hylnur (Hilmir Gudnason) is pursuing the lifestyle of slack in a remote Icelandic village. He shares a small apartment with his mother, spending his days surfing the internet for porn and his nights getting drunk in the local bar/nightclub. The town is so small that the bar is the default backdrop and the stew pot for the local twenty-somethings. Unlike what you’d expect to find in small town America, Helgason’s version of small town Iceland is surprisingly liberal, open minded, and sexually frank. Hylnur is living on the dole with no plans to find a job. As far as he’s concerned, he’s made all out himself that he wants and he’ll just hang out with his friends and drink the rest of his life away. Drinking and fucking get him into trouble and he is forced to grow up faster than he wants.

Enter Lola (Victoria Abril) who stays over the winter as a guest of Hylnur’s mother (Hanna Karlsdottir). Lola is a transplant from Spain who, for some reason, chose the cold and treeless terrain of Iceland to her warm native home. She is the foreign element that brings Hylnur to his crisis. Lola is not only his mother’s Flamenco teacher, she is also her lover. Hylnur doesn’t find this out until after one night of wild, drunken sex. The next morning, Hylnur thinks he’s in love but Lola rebuffs him. When his mother comes home from the yearly ritual of enduring the dry, meaningless exchanges and indifference around the holidays she tells Hylnur the true nature of their relationship.

The whole town is celebrating while fireworks go off all night. This was one of my favorite scenes. Everyone is crowded into that tiny little bar, dancing, drinking, sweating, wearing party hats and costumes. They are completely abandoned to the moment.


I like the intimacy of the movie. We get very close to not only the characters but the whole environment. Hylnur’s ex-girlfriend is trying to finish college. She’s the daughter of a respectable dentist who wishes she’d find someone else. Their on again off again relationship gets us inside Hylnur’s attitude towards women and what he wants out a relationship. It seems that people get together just to be together. Hylnur and his ex-girlfriend are either fighting or humiliating each other. This subplot ties up the movie when Hylnur finally gets a job as a meter maid and gives her a ticket.

101 Reykjavik presents a realistic portrait of life in other places that is just like life here. Everyone’s little fucked up lives creeping along the belly of life. Two things make this movie worth your time, the opening scene and the soundtrack. The soundtrack is a phenomenal collaboration of Icelandic punk icon Einar Orn of The Sugarcubes, of which Bjork was once a member and Damon Albarn of the British pop group, Blur. Everything in between is good too but the soundtrack is worth getting just for the sake of itself.

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