Posted by: Ben Hopkins | 04/07/2009

101 Reykjavik

Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Year: 2000

If anything encapsulated Reykjavik’s reputation as a destination for the hip and the curious it was this. The title serves up a dual purpose – 101 being the city’s most happening postcode as well as offering the film as an introductory course to the capital – that works on both levels.

In 101 Reykjavik our hero is Hylner, an eternal freeloading slacker clearly a little too old to be living so intimately with his mother. His interests are almost solely limited to hanging out in Kaffibarinn (often voted amongst the
world’s best bars
, this city centre venue is/was supposedly co-owned by the director and Blur’s Damon Albarn) and generally taking life easy.

Victoria Abril as Lola

Victoria Abril as Lola

And so life is easy, if utterly monotonous. Or it is until his mother’s friend Lola comes to stay. Flamboyant, charismatic and outgoing, Lola is everything that Hylner isn’t. That’s accentuated by the growing relationship between the newcomer and the mother, and then made all the more complicated when Hylner sleeps with his mother’s lover.

The film itself seems very much of its time and doesn’t have the same gripping, gravitational pull that it did all those years ago. It also seems further weakened by a conclusion only vaguely more plausible than that of Forrest Gump. Yet it still exudes much of its initial charm; Hylner’s comically overstated ennui mixed with his oddly extreme fantasies provides much of the film’s brilliant humour, while the sense of hedonism in a isolated world fuelled by alcohol and sex still makes for a comparatively close city seem otherwordly and inherently independent.

Given that most of the films here seem to focus on the stranger angles of Icelandic life, 101 Reykjavik stands out as a story that could be told anywhere. Beer, quarter-life crisis and dubious relationships provide a narrative that could be adapted globally.

101 Reykjavik can be purchased online at Nammi.

“I’ll be dead after I die. I was dead before I was born. Life is a break from death.”

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