Overweight, in his forties and still living with his mother, Fúsi incarnates the sad-sack sweet guy that makes up our protagonist. Fúsi has created a safe, unchanging, extremely limited world for himself. Working as a baggage handler at the airport, he returns home to re-create the battle of El Alamein on his work table. Whenever Fúsi tries to leave his comfort zone he is met with disappointment. A co-workers invitation to a paint-ball excursions ends in a humiliating encounter with a prostitute, and Fúsi’s friendship with a neighbours little girl raises unfounded specters of perversion. Fúsi absorbs rejection, bulling and ridicule as his norm. Things are changed when Fúsi is given dancing classes for his birthday. Reluctantly attending, he meets Sjofn, a friendly young woman who takes to Fúsi and the two fall in love. However, Sjofn carries her own burdens and their relationship is full of ups and downs.

Virgin Mountain exhibits Icelandic comedy at its finest. The offbeat humour of Fúsi’s life is introduced by a pleasantly absurd catalyst for change – a birthday gift of line-dancing classes from his mother. The deadpan approach that the film takes doesn’t let society off the hook, and uses the notions that people are judged way too easily by their appearance. A great deal of the comedy is achieved through the depiction of Fúsi: completely unaware of his surroundings and the social standards that he is expected to follow.

Beyond the comedic aspect, Virgin Mountain is underlined by the bittersweet tone of isolation that fills the city. Constantly surrounded by less than pleasant weather and dull-toned buildings, the environment seems apprehensive to Fúsi and the characteristics that make him likable. He is alone, lonely, and there seems to be no escape for this feeling in Iceland. The one person he managed to befriend, Sjofn, changes his life in such drastic ways despite only just meeting. The ways he is knocked out of his routine, causing him to interact more with those around him, seems to give him a newly realised purpose.

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.