Under the Tree

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Under the Tree

Runtime 89 minutes|
R

It’s not really the tree that causes all the problems here, but it provides the impetus for just about everything that happens. It’s a beautiful tree and it’s in the front yard of Baldvin and Inga (Sigurður Sigurjónsson and Edda Björgvinsdóttir, respectively) casting a disturbing shadow on the patio of their neighbors Konrad and Eybjorg (Þorsteinn Bachmann and Selma Björnsdóttir, respectively). It sets rolling a ball that drastically affects the lives of everyone in the movie.

This is basically a film about revenge with the moral that it is often better to turn the other cheek and let things roll off your back, to mix aphorisms.

The film starts with Baldvin and Inga’s son, Atli (Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson), getting out of bed with his wife, Agnes (Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir), to go watch a porn film of him with another woman, Rakel (Dóra Jóhannsdóttir). Unfortunately for him, Agnes catches him and has a conniption fit, throwing him out of the house. He reacts mercurially and tries to get access to their daughter, Asa (Sigrídur Sigurpálsdóttir Scheving), which causes more problems.

With these A and B stories proceeding simultaneously, things go from bad to worse. One irrational act is put upon another, each escalating things from the last. Brilliantly directed by Sigrídur Sigurpálsdóttir Scheving from a script by him and Huldar Breiðfjörð, this has terrific pace. The only slow parts are a couple of scenes of Baldvin singing with his church choir, but that’s minimal.

Scheving explains the derivation of the film a lot better than I could, “Stories of neighbors fighting over trees are actually quite well known in Iceland so, and in fact, the story was in some sense inspired by a real-life incident, although the script then developed into something completely fictional. What’s also important to know is that trees are not all that common in Iceland, so if you have an old and beautiful tree standing in your garden, you’re very unlikely to ever want to let go of it. But on the other hand, if a tree in the next garden is preventing any sun from shining into your garden, you are going to want to get rid of that tree. Especially since we don ́t get that much sunshine in Iceland. It’s the kind of head to head dilemma that unfortunately is hard to solve in a diplomatic way.”

In Icelandic.

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