Review: ‘Volcano’

A gruff, working-class retiree relearns what makes life precious in the small but heartrending "Volcano," the feature debut of Icelandic helmer Runar Runarsson.

A gruff, working-class retiree relearns what makes life precious in the small but heartrending “Volcano,” the feature debut of Icelandic helmer Runar Runarsson. With well-rounded characters and an overall tone reminiscent of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, the realist drama shows that tender sex is not incompatible with senescence. Although witnessing the indignities of aging and infirmity won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, the poignantly performed pic strikes grace notes that feel both universal and uniquely Icelandic. Fest travel should segue to select ancillary offshore.

(Icelandic dialogue)

After 37 years as a feared school janitor, the future looms like an empty void for Hannes (Theodor Juliusson). From a more conservative time, when a man was king in his home and expressions of affection were limited to women and Christmas, he’s alienated from his adult children (Thorstein Bachmann, Elma Lisa Gunnarsdottir) and young grandson (Agust Orn B. Wigum). After wife Anna (Margret Helga Johannsdottir) suffers a sudden stroke, Hannes must summon long-repressed emotional resources. Shot in grainy 16mm, non-showy tech package evokes a keen sense of nostalgia. Transcendent music from Sigur Ros’ Kjartan Sveinsson soars at key points.

Volcano

Iceland-Denmark

Production

A Zik Zak Filmworks, Fine & Mellow production with the support of Icelandic Film Center, New Danish Screen, Nordic Film and TV Fond, Icelandic Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism. (International sales: TrustNordisk, Hvidovre, Denmark.) Produced by Thor Sigurjonsson, Skuli Malmquist, Egil Dennerline. Executive producer, Thomas Gammeltoft. Directed, written by Runar Runarsson.

Crew

Camera (color, 16mm-to-35mm), Sophia Olsson; editor, Jacob Schulsinger; music, Kjartan Sveinsson; production designer, Haukur Karlsson. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 13, 2011. Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Theodor Juliusson, Margret Helga Johannsdottir, Thorstein Bachmann, Elma Lisa Gunnarsdottir, Agust Orn B. Wigum, Kristin Davidsdottir.

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