Life in a Fishbowl

Vonarstræti / Iceland / 2014 / dir. Baldvin Zophoníasson / 130 mins / drama / starring Hera Hilmar, Thor Kristjansson & Þorsteinn Bachmann

Life in a Fishbowl, Iceland’s submission for the 2015 Oscar©, is a searing indictment of Icelandic society prior to the country’s financial collapse in 2008. As three people circle around like fish in the aquatic, grey, neon-lit otherworld that is Reykjavik in the winter, their stories are ingeniously woven together. Hardly an anonymous metropolis, the capital city is a small town where everybody knows everybody else’s business. And their business is mostly grim: a young single mother who can’t get by on her salary as a kindergarten teacher works nights as a call girl. A prickly famous author drinks himself nearly to death following the drowning of his daughter. A handsome ex-soccer star, recruited to the world of high finance, becomes increasingly uneasy with morally questionable deals. As the nooses tighten around everyone’s necks, it’s clear that the drop is coming soon. But a glimmer of hope comes from the realization that life is easier when we denizens of the fishbowl swim together in the same direction. Hera Hilmar and Thor Kristjansson put in powerful performances as members of the younger generation whose once sunny prospects have soured; Þorsteinn Bachmann is especially affecting as the author who’s lost his will to struggle.

Director Baldvin Zophoníasson, who studied film in Denmark, has worked as a TV editor, cameraman and producer, and made commercials and music videos for Icelandic bands. Life in a Fishbowl, one of the country’s most successful domestic hits in recent memory and a prizewinner at the Nordic Film Days in Lübeck and the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, is a follow-up to Jitters, “Baldvin Z’s” promising first feature.

Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.

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