Under the Tree (Undir trénu) (2017) by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson

Under the Tree (Undir trénu) (2017) by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson

That one can fairly predict where it is all headed is a nod to the fine etching of the film’s key characters. The tangential allegory of peace and hope is realized with wit and control, which makes the work Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson’s best film to date.

3.5 out of 4 stars

Assuming the unknown

The film begins with one of the most hilarious scenes I have ever seen. Describing it here will spoil its visual significance. Filmmaker Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson proves how well he understands the comedy of contrasts through this singular scene. But it also serves a higher purpose by introducing the film’s central theme. It speaks of how likely we are to act based on something we assume, forgetting to check if what we assume is actually true.

Based on the events of this (again, hilarious) scene, Agnes feels that her husband, Atli, is cheating on her. So she throws him out. Atli takes shelter in his parents’ home. His parents, Baldvin and Inga, have their own set of problems. Inga is yet to come to terms with the death of her older son, Uggi. It is not clear whether he is actually dead. His mysterious disappearance further underlines the theme defined in the first scene, that we tend to form assumptions of the unknown. Baldvin and Atli have dealt with the reality that Uggi is not around. Sadly, Inga has failed to do so. She makes it clear that she loved Uggi more than Atli. But one can sense that even if it was Uggi who was around and Atli who’s missing, her reaction would be the same. Some people only see what’s not around.

The younger model

Adding to the problem is the next-door couple, Konrad and Eybjorg. According to Inga, Konrad was fine till he divorced his wife and brought in the ‘younger model’, Eybjorg. Eybjorg has a problem with the tree of the other side. its shade is falling on the porch. She sends Konrad to have a little talk about it with Baldvin. The talk sounds more like a threat, though the level headed Baldvin takes it well. But Inga has a serious problem with Eybjorg. She should because Eybjorg’s dog keeps pooping on their territory. So she calls Eybjorg, throws her dog’s poop on her, and tells her not to send her ‘loser husband’ Konrad to speak for her.

It’s all hilarious. But there is a more alarming meaning underneath it. The exchanges between the two women show what’s wrong with our society. Women are either ‘models’ or not. Those who aren’t, bear the grudge for it. Like Baldvin makes it clear that he is unhappy with Inga’s unwillingness to take care of her looks. Inga, on the other hand, hates Eybjorg because she has what she doesn’t. And that’s not about having a better figure.

Inga hates the fact that Eybjorg is pregnant. Another person is having something that she has lost. Inga takes it very seriously. A series of events occur, whose truth gets known only after their repercussions take place. But one thing gets clear, if you believe blindly, you act blindly, and then you start hitting blindly.

The distant white horse

That we can fairly realize what’s coming stands as an advantage for this film. This is because our imagination is being driven here by the characterization. Seeing Inga, we are justified to believe that she is hoping to watch the world burn. What follows then does not become an exaggeration. Instead, it feels like a natural flow, which is a rarity for a film of this sort.

Furthermore, the proceedings reflect the confidence of the filmmaker. Sigurðsson knows exactly what he wants, and all his brush strokes point to it. He begins with an objective, ends just when his point is over. Even the message of the secondary plotline of Atli and Agnes acts as a counterpoint to the main thread. Sigurðsson understands that the point of the final scene is obvious, so he doesn’t overstress it. But his mise-en-scene is filled with accurate symbols. The horse in the distance is white for a reason. The green tranquil tree stands for something as well. Things that the people of this film, residing in beautiful homes that look the same from outside, will never have. The tangential sense of an allegory of peace and hope is thus realiZed with wit and control, which makes the work Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson’s best film to date.

Credits (from IMDb):
Directed by

Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson

Written by

Huldar Breiðfjörð … (story and screenplay)
Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson … (screenplay)

Cinematography by

Monika Lenczewska

Editing by

Kristján Loðmfjörð

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Under the Riccione Sun (Sotto il sole di Riccione) (2020) by Younuts

Under the Riccione Sun (Sotto il sole di Riccione) (2020) by Younuts

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