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Cold Light

Icelandic nature plays almost as important a role as the actors in "Cold Light," about a man haunted by past events that he perhaps could have prevented. Well-acted and beautiful to look at, pic is too uneven to tweak international interest in same way as last year's quirky hit from the same territory, "Noi the Albino." Film's exoticism is its strongest selling point.

With:
With: Ingvar E. Sigurdsson, Aslakur Ingvarsson, Kristbjorg Kjeld, Ruth Olafsdottir, Snaefridur Ingvarsdottir, Thorey Sigthorsdottir, Helga Braga Jonsdottir, Edda Heidrun Backman. (Icelandic, English dialogue)

Icelandic nature plays almost as important a role as the actors in “Cold Light,” about a man haunted by past events that he perhaps could have prevented. Well-acted and beautiful to look at, pic is too uneven to tweak international interest in same way as last year’s quirky hit from the same territory, “Noi the Albino.” Film’s exoticism is its strongest selling point.

Grimur (Ingvar E. Sigurdsson), a 40-year-old loner who lives in Reykjavik, often relives events from when he was small. (In these flashbacks, the young Grimur is played by Sigurdsson’s own son, Aslakur Ingvarsson, lending film a heightened realism.)

Young Grimur and his beloved sister, Gottina (Snaefridur Ingvarsdottir), live with their parents in an isolated house in the shadow of a looming mountain. Their life is full of hardship as well as love. As often in Iceland, belief in the supernatural is strong, and when Grimur sees a old woman who lives nearby flying past on a broomstick, he accepts it as reality.

Young Grimur is fond of drawing, specializing in colorful creations with an ominous tone. However, he doesn’t know how to interpret the drawings, and hence is unable to prevent a disaster.

Flashbacks are intercut with sequences of the adult Grimur. He enrolls in a drawing class where he creates some consternation by making strange versions of the nude models. When Grimur is smitten by the English-speaking teacher, the two become lovers; but when she gets pregnant, Grimur starts to get scared.

Icelandic films have a tendency to exploit the country’s harshly beautiful landscape in a way that makes them look like ads for the island’s tourist board. Fortunately, this isn’t the case with “Cold Light.” With the help of excellent d.p. Sigurdur Sverrir Palsson, helmer-writer Hilmar Oddsson shows the majesty of the terrain as being both threatening and welcoming. It’s one of pic’s major assets.

Acting is fine down the line, and Oddsson refreshingly treats the story’s more magical or supernatural ingredients sans ridicule or mockery.

However, the film never really hooks the viewer into caring sufficiently for the characters and “Cold Light” remains a movie of beautiful but frigid surfaces.

Cold Light

Iceland

Production: An Icelandic Film Corp. production, in association with Film & Music Entertainment (U.K.), Filmhuset (Norway), Lichtblick Filmproduction (Germany). (International sales: Media Luna Entertainment, Cologne, Germany.) Produced by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Anna Maria Karlsdottir. Co-producers, Mike Downey, Sam Taylor, Egil Odegard, Helga Bahr. Directed by Hilmar Oddsson. Screenplay, Oddsson, Freyr Thormodsson, based on the novel by Vigdis Grimsdottir.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Sigurdur Sverrir Palsson; editor, Sigvaldi J. Karason; music, Hjalmar H. Ragnarsson; art director, Sigurjon Johannsson; costume designer, Helga I. Stefansdottir; sound (Dolby Digital), Paul Wrightson, Kjartan Kjartansson. Reviewed at Gothenburg Film Festival (opener, competing), Jan. 23, 2004. (Also in Berlin Film Festival -- Panorama.) Running time: 93 MIN.

With: With: Ingvar E. Sigurdsson, Aslakur Ingvarsson, Kristbjorg Kjeld, Ruth Olafsdottir, Snaefridur Ingvarsdottir, Thorey Sigthorsdottir, Helga Braga Jonsdottir, Edda Heidrun Backman. (Icelandic, English dialogue)

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