Screening at the Scandinavian Film Festival
Icelandic director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson follows up his debut film Either Way with another film rooted in a droll script but with universal potential. Paris of the North is an appealing, character-driven dramedy about emotionally handicapped men, featuring several relationships that model various styles of parenting. Sigurdsson explores the male psyche through the prism of an uneasy relationship, and overall the story is about men trying to come to terms with their own lives at their own pace.
The action takes place over summer in northwest Iceland in a small fishing village. Hugi (Bjorn Thors) is a primary school teacher from Reykjavik, who made the move after his marriage ended. He now spends his time jogging, learning languages online, and attending AA meetings where all the attendees know each other. The film begins when Hugi’s estranged, hard-drinking father Thorfinnur (Helgi Bjornsson) insists on coming for a visit, and soon finds himself in a relationship with Hugi’s recent ex-girlfirned, Erna.
The best parts of the film are the long takes, wide frames, and the use of the wonderfully bleak landscape that contrasts so perfectly with the more downbeat aspects of the story. Standouts are the visual shots by G. Magni Agustsson, which capture the rural majesty of the location. The portrayal of Hugi and the men in his orbit quietly but precisely observe their hard-to-kick habits but also the characters positive traits – a highlight being Hugi’s warm relationship with ten-year-old Albert, who’s stuck in a town where he’s the only kid interested in soccer.
Overall, Paris of the North is a slow-moving and darkly funny story that allows for the sparse performances of the actors to shine though. While this film isn’t as deep and moody as some other films screening at the Scandinavian Film Festival, it is an entertaining and easy-to-watch film audiences will enjoy.