Under the Tree
Directed by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson. Iceland. 2017. R. 1 hour 29 minutes. Magnolia Pictures. Digital. In Icelandic with English subtitles..
Fri., July 20, 2018 thru Thu., July 26, 2018
Ends Thu, Jul 26.
In Under the Tree, possibly the best comedy from Iceland since Eleven Men Out, Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson examines the simmering frictions between two neighbouring families in a sleepy suburb.
Grieving Inga and put-upon husband Baldvin are the proud owners of the area’s only tree. Next door, amateur marksman Konrad lives with his new, much younger wife, the athletic Eybjorg — whose mere appearance incites torrents of expletives from Inga. Worse, it’s a pleasant summer, and the only thing more coveted than trees in Iceland is sunlight. Eybjorg is infuriated by the way the overhanging branches of Inga’s beloved tree block the sunshine. The sudden return of Inga’s son, Atli, tossed from his apartment after his wife found him enthusiastically interfacing with salacious material on his laptop, only complicates the situation.
In films like Either Way (remade in the US by David Gordon Green) Sigurðsson skillfully explored the foibles of Icelandic life, slacker division. But with Under the Tree he delivers his most caustic, comprehensive look at contemporary culture, taking on everything from lost traditions (Atli removes his daughter from school for a quasi-nostalgic camping trip, but time only permits an excursion to the lawn outside the IKEA) to housing co-ops.
Absurdly hilarious and psychologically astute, Under the Tree probes the way proximity heightens resentment and malice, suggesting a fusion between Norman McLaren’s Neighbours, the sociological observations of Life in a Fishbowl, and the deadpan humour and insight of Rams. – Steve Gravestock, TIFF
“…in just 89 minutes, Sigurðsson builds from one husband requesting that the other prune a backyard tree to an eruption of vicious violence. The first scenes are hilarious, all sharp surprises and adeptly staged physical comedy. But then the story turns, the way that milk does, curdling into tragedy. You might find the concoction unpalatable; I laughed and cringed and caught myself once in a while holding my breath, dreading what was next. When’s the last time you saw a narrative feature with a genre that was so shrewdly unfixed that you genuinely had no idea what would — or could — happen next?” – Alan Scherstuhl, The Village Voice
Access reviews at Metacritic.