Film Review: Life in a Fishbowl

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Three fractured lives criss-cross in Baldvin Zophoniasson’s second feature film.

Considered by Icelandic newspaper Fréttabladid to be “The best Icelandic film in history,” Zophoniasson’s sophomore cinematic outing was an Icelandic box office smash. Vanquishing high-profile American competition it was crowned the country’s most successful film of 2014.

Praised by American Director Darren Aronofsky, Life in a Fishbowl was selected as Iceland’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2015 Oscars. It has been the recipient of numerous domestic and international awards. Audience response to screenings at North American and European festivals has seen it rapidly earning a reputation as one the decade’s most significant Icelandic films.

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Inspired by true stories, Baldvin Zophoniasson’s follow up to the coming of age drama Jitters is a is a supremely well directed multi-layered drama filled with complex and sensitively drawn character portraits. An elegy to lost souls modelled on Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. A trio of frustrated and thwarted individuals weave in and out of each other’s lives with startling consequences in the years immediately prior to the financial crisis.

Noted writer Mori (Thorsteinn Bachmann – The Deep, The Press) has spent the past two decades lost in a haze of alcohol. The submission of an autobiographical novel to his publisher brings to an end a lengthy creative fallow period. Addressing his darkest demons, the book is a confessional tome. Praised by his editor as a return to form it’s a tale that has been waiting twenty years to be told.

Eik (Hera Hilmarsdottir – Da Vinci’s Demons) is a nursery school assistant struggling to single-handedly raise a diabetic child. Her salary doesn’t meet the cost of rent and food forcing Eik to moonlight as an escort.

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Each day Mori drunkenly staggers to Eik’s workplace, stopping to gaze at the nearby lake and chats with her daughter. Mother and disgraced writer recognise that they are a  pair of damaged souls and strike up a friendship that will force each to exorcise long-buried traumas.

Former footballer Solvi (Thor Kristjansson – Dracula Untold) works for a rapacious financial institution which recklessly pursues profit and is profligate with its expenses. Eager to scale the corporate ladder he manoeuvres around shady executives while attempting to complete a close property redevelopment deal. The seemingly committed family man is intoxicated by the wild abandon offered by a Florida junket and sleeps with Eik little suspecting that she works at his daughter’s nursery.

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A mature and engaging snapshot of personal destinies stunted by painful memories, denial, and an uncaring society. Baldvin Zophoniasson and co-writer Birgir Örn Steinarsson’s screenplay is an intricately patterned mosaic that entwines complex characters with a commentary on the country’s recent economic hardships.

Life in a Fishbowl is the latest film to prove that the Iceland’s motion picture industry is currently enjoying a creative renaissance. Compelling and thought provoking, the movie deserves to be seen by a wider audience.

Life in a Fishbowl is available to rent or buy at Amazon Video

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