Taking its cue from Thomas Vinterberg's chilling family reunion drama The Celebration, Baltasar Kormákur's The Sea - the Icelandic entry for Best Foreign Film in this year's Academy Awards - charts a disastrous family gathering brought about by a craggily patriarchal figure determined to see -- and torment -- his brood one last time before death. But whereas Vinterberg's film, shot according to the tenets of Dogme 95's "vow of chastity," was made harrowing by its bleakly naturalistic style, Kormákur's film tells its tale of sins passed down from father to children with a big-budget professionalism. Kormákur's widescreen compositions have the silken iciness of an arctic wind, and though his self-conscious direction has an undeniable loveliness, it also calls attention to his story's flimsiness.
The local fishing magnate Thórdur (Gunnar Eyjólfsson) is an arrogant, selfish, and self-righteous man, and his refusal to modernize his plant has resulted in the loss of market share to his rival corporate competition. Desperate to place his fish processing plant in good hands before he dies, Thórdur demands that his children come to visit, even though none care much for their blustery father. Ágúst (Hilmir Snær Gudnason), Thórdur's youngest child, is supposed to be attending business school on his father's tab, but has abandoned his studies for a life as a songwriter with his beautiful (and pregnant) Parisian girlfriend Françoise (Hélène de Fougerolles). Ragnheidur (Gudrún S. Gísladóttir), Thórdur's daughter, is a bitter woman married to nebbish wimp Morten (Sven Nordin) and the mother of a spoiled son, and remains haunted by crimes committed against her as a child. Thórdur's loyal first son Haraldur (Sigurdur Skúlason), who has worked at his father's plant since the age of 10, covertly despises the old man, and is eager to take over and sell the business so that he and his greedy, gaudy wife Áslaug (Elva Ósk Ólafsdóttir) can enjoy the spoils of wealth. All three detest Thórdur's second wife Kirstín (Kristbjörg Kjeld), the sister of their long-deceased mother, while their cousin María (Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir), still living with Thórdur and Kirstín, harbors romantic feelings for Ágúst. Suffice to say, theirs is a mightily dysfunctional family.
Continue reading: The Sea Review