Virgin Mountain: A genuinely lovely tale of a man who grows up late
by Vladan Petkovic
- BERLIN 2015: Icelandic auteur Dagur Kári brings a heartwarming, bittersweet tale of a huge man with a huge heart to the Berlinale
One of Iceland's most famous directors, Dagur Kári – known for his 2003 debut, Noi the Albino, which managed to charm audiences around the world and win a string of festival awards and critical recognition, and his subsequent films Dark Horse [+see also:
film profile] and 2009’s The Good Heart [+see also:
film profile], which had less success – returns with a story that could once again rack up some nice arthouse figures if placed properly. The movie screened as a Special Gala at the Berlinale.
The title Virgin Mountain [+see also:
film profile] refers to the main character, Fúsi (Gunnar Jónsson), a physically huge man in his mid-forties who lives with his mother (Margrét Helga Jóhannsdóttir). He is a terribly reticent loner, whose limited interests include recreating the Battle of El Alamein as a table war game with his one friend (who has a family and provides some nice sarcastic comments on relationships), listening to heavy-metal songs that he requests from a radio DJ while sitting in his pick-up truck and having the same Thai dish every Friday night in the same restaurant.
Kári outlines the main character's psychological profile early on, when Fúsi barges in on his mother having sex with her boyfriend, Rolf (Arnar Jónsson). The mere fact that the elderly, domineering parent still has a normal sex life, while he himself has never had a girlfriend, provides enough of a description of his approach (or rather, lack thereof) to people. For his birthday, Rolf gives him a coupon to use at a line-dancing school, a good chance to meet a woman. And he does.
Sjöfn (Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir) is a fine-looking girl with a truckload of problems, most of them psychological. Their relationship is awkward and full of misunderstandings and ups and downs, but it is the way for the fortysomething man to finally enter adolescence and grow up.
Fúsi's heart is as big as his body, but he is completely unaware of how the real world functions. He befriends a little girl from the same building and plays innocent games with her, not for one moment thinking how it could look to the girl's father. At his job as a member of the ground crew at an airport, he is constantly bullied by his colleagues, and at one moment when he fights back, the film features its only brutal scene – and a fantastic one at that.
Apart from this, the tone of the film is quite mellow and bittersweet. It is a sensitive work that manages never to slip into over-sentimentality. Thanks to the smart script, Jónsson fits the role like a glove, and his minimal use of facial expressions shines in the rare moments when he shows emotions, with barely a single hair of his moustache moving.
This genuinely lovely film could do well on the arthouse scene, and particularly on television. BAC Films is sure to give it proper festival exposure, but it is a product that could also rack up some nice figures for its scale in select territories. It was produced by Iceland's RVK Studios and co-produced by Nimbus Film.