Sep 13, 2007

Do you know Nói?

Nói Albínói. Directed by Dagur Kári, 2004.

Imagine my surprise when Gabe´s friend Cliff picked up my Netflix copy of Nói and said, "Hey, this is a really great film." I don't have too many acquaintances that share my love of Icelandic film! I did find out that our university library and our local independent video store both have it. I just finished watching it for the second time, and liked it even better than the first.

Nói is an outsider in many ways. Casting him as an albino just emphasizes his otherness. He has a shaven head, a basement hideaway. He wants to connect to others, but can't. He does connect with Iris, another outsider, but their relationship has a doomed feel.

Nói is very bright, but doesn't choose to conform at school. In one scene he decides to send his tape recorder in instead of attending class himself. Not a bad idea, really; this way he would be able to keep up and not be a distraction to the other students--kind of like long distance learning, right? His teacher doesn't see it that way. As is so often the case in education, the problem isn't the one student who refuses to do things "the right way", but rather what would happen if other students chose a similar path.

Nói doesn't live in a traditional family, but that isn't unusual in Iceland, or other places for that matter. He lives with his batty grandmother, and spends some time with his Dad, a dysfunctional individual who drinks too much, can't control his temper, regrets his wasted life, and is hopelessly waiting...for who knows what?

Will Nói will ever find a place to belong? He uses an old viewfinder to "escape" to Hawaii, and perhaps it is only that kind of distance which will afford him a fresh start.

A shotgun is featured in three memorable scenes. First, his grandmother uses it as an alarm clock. She shoots it out the window: "Nói, you're going to be late for school." Later in the film Nói tries unsuccessfully to hold up the local bank. But his reputation precedes him, and no one will take him seriously. In a telling scene huge icicles from a frozen waterfall hang motionless, suspended, waiting for a thaw. Nói blasts them down with the shotgun, precipitating their transformation. That sort of raw, unexpected violence may be what Nói himself needs in order to change.

The commentary by youthful director Dagur is worth listening to after seeing the film. He refers to the ambiguity of the action and his main character: is the film dealing with tragedy or liberation? Either way, it treats the subject with a lot of humor, a discerning touch, and great acting.


Professor Batty said...

... and don't forget to mention the sausage-making scene!

Rose said...

Oh, please! I'd like to forget that scene!

Karen said...

Is this the "Napoleon Dynamite" of Iceland? ; )

P.S.: I am watching "Sweet Land" tonight. "A feisty German mail-order bride" comes to Minnesota.

Rose said...

Well, Nói isn´t nearly as goofy as Napoleon. He´s a bit more reserved. They are both appealing, but Napoleon is more loveable while Nói is more...intellectual and oblique perhaps. Anyway, the movies have a very different feel. Let me know what you think if you watch it...I just know that with your burgeoning Icelandic film collection at Iowa State, you probably have this! Wait...I'll check World Cat...well, what do you know. My alma mater, Ames Public has it! I'll await your report...
Let me know about Sweet Land--it sounds good, and I added it to my Netflix list. I know I sound like a walking advertisement for N., but either it's really convenient or I'm really lazy...