DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema

Under the Tree (Undir trénu)

Director - Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson - 2018

"Mostly clean movie"
The seeds of mistrust have been sown! Icelandic comedy about neighbours feuding over tree that blocks the sun has brilliant moments of black humour, but doesn't gel together as a whole - now available on VoD

A gloriously bleak dramedy with distinctively Nordic flavours. Under the Tree bears many stylistic similarities to the last Icelandic film to achieve some considerable critical and commercial in the UK, Grímur Hákonarson’s Rams (2015). In fact, the two films share the same producer, Grímar Jónsson.

There are many good moments in Under the Tree. The black humour is remarkable. A residents’ meeting about drainage quickly descends into a heated argument about their sex lives. Gnomes are used as war weapons, and even a stuffed dog becomes the subject of a brutal feud. And it isn’t just neighbours who constantly scramble over petty arguments. Married couples also love to squabble.

The film opens with Atli (Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson) caught red-handed by his wife Agnes (Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir) as he masturbates to a sex video of his ex. The scene is played out very well, with Agnes’s face clearly printed with perplexity, while Atli does his best to remain calm. He gets evicted from his own house and moves in with his parents Inga (Edda Björgvinsdóttir) and Baldvin (Sigurður Sigurjónsson), who are still reeling from the mysterious disappearance of their old son. Meanwhile, the elderly couple are fully engaged in a cold war with their neighbours, the newly-married Konrad (Þorsteinn Bachmann) and Elybjorg (Selma Björnsdóttir). The bone of contention: a tree on Inga’s and Baldvin’s garden that prevents the sunlight from reaching their neighbours’ sun deck.

The stoic and reserved attitude of Icelanders is repeatedly tested in the first 20 minutes of the movie, and the outcome is quite convincing. Sadly, this doesn’t last until the end. Many of the conflicts introduced at the beginning of the story are not properly investigated. This could have been a fantastic satire about average middle-class families morphing into frothing beasts, but sadly the dramatic devices do not sustain the film throughout.

Inga is the biggest misfire. She should be dealing with grief because of her son’s disappearance. And, while Björgvinsdóttir does an excellent job conveying a sense of anxiety and loss, I can’t quite buy her deep-seated hatred of her neighbours as a response to that. She eventually becomes the epitome of rage and jealousy, but the script fails to connect this to her personal loss.

The female characters are constantly nagging and filled with repressed anger, while the males are seeking a rational resolution. It’s up to men to clear up the mess caused by women, the film seems to suggest. This duality, however, is brilliantly subverted in the grand finale, which is as convincing as the beginning of the film. In a nutshell, Under the Tree is partly effective movie neatly bookended by two excellent scenes.

Under the Tree is out in cinemas across the UK on Friday, August 10th. On VoD on Monday, January 14th (2019).



"Mostly clean movie"

By Fedor Tot - 08-08-2018

By Fedor Tot - 08-08-2018

Fedor Tot is a movie critic, editor, musician, occasional stand-up comedian, and yet an...

DMovies Poll

Are the Oscars dirty enough for DMovies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

Just a few years back, finding a film [Read More...]
Forget Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and the [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]
A lot of British people would rather forget [Read More...]
What happens when an independent female filmmaker with [Read More...]
Fifty years have passed since students joined forces [Read More...]

Read More

Metalhead (Málmhaus)

Ragnar Bragason
2013

Jeremy Clarke - 15-11-2017

This is hardcore! Teen compensates for her brother’s untimely death by adopting his heavy metal music albums, clothing and guitar playing, in Icelandic drama – watch it now on VoD [Read More...]

Adrift

Baltasar Kormákur
2018

Victor Fraga - 26-06-2018

Real story of human resilience is profoundly moving, and it will twist and shake your notions of sanity and romance - in cinemas Friday, June 29th [Read More...]

The Current War

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
2019

Victor Fraga - 19-07-2019

American historical drama details the fight between electricity giants Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla in the late 19th century, but the outcome is neither bright nor electrifying - in cinemas Friday, July 26th [Read More...]

Facebook Comment

Website Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *