Screen um LJÓSBROT: Leikur og ljóðræna

Fionnuala Halligan skrifar í Screen um Ljósbrot eftir Rúnar Rúnarsson, opnunarmynd Un Certain Regard á Cannes.

Halligan skrifar:

The true moment of reaching adulthood isn’t determined by age, but by death. Rúnar Rúnarsson’s slender story pivots on a traumatic 24 hours – sunset to sunset – in the life of young Icelandic performance art student Una (Elin Hall). This film from the director of Volcano, Sparrows and Echo is almost possessed by the titular light and the image of his native Reykjavík as he works again with his longtime collaborator DoP Sophia Olsson. The plot is there to deliver the viewer into the frame, a simple tool for Rúnarsson and Olsson to play with in the endless dazzling mirror hours of a Northern summer.

Opening Un Certain Regard, this slim (at 80 minutes) mood piece is a visual antidote to the recent all-at-night instalment of True Detective (set in Alaska but shot in Iceland). There’s death, certainly, as an inciting incident, but where that TV series delivered dark, dour and twisted, this puts the tear-stained faces of young Iceland to the light in a story that’s also lightly touched-on. Buoyed by Rúnarsson’s reputation, festivals will certainly take note of a film that may struggle to make an impact in more commercial waters.

The opening shot of When The Light Breaks places the camera at the back of Una’s head as she gazes out at a gorgeous evening at the beach. The film then dives into brief but somewhat rote exposition. She is in love with Diddi (Baldur Einarsson), a fellow drama school student, who is about to fly north early the next morning to break up with his long-term girlfriend Klara (Katla Njálsdóttir). They can’t wait for the secrecy surrounding their relationship to end. Diddi wants Una to stay over at his apartment for the night, even though she can’t charge her phone. They talk about having children and travelling to Japan. Olsson’s camera switches to the overhead lights of a tunnel: a fireball comes into view. No prizes for guessing what happens next, but no spoilers either: this is all pre-opening credits.

When The Light Breaks sees Rúnarsson in a rush to to have done with the plot and focus on what he really cares about: his lead actor Elin Hall, Iceland in summer, and young friends on the cusp of their first real reckoning with adulthood. He’ll eventually mirror Una and his opening sequences as the circle of 24 hours comes to a close, swopping Diddi for Klara and making exquisite use of their pale, blue-eyed and red-haired colouring both together and against the orange sunset.

There’s always a playfulness alongside the poeticism of Rúnarsson’s work. As Una and Diddi’s friends set out on this fateful day, which will soon become known for Iceland’s greatest-ever national tragedy, it’s also graduation day for many of Reykajvik’s colleges, with students thronging the streets dressed up in costume – from bananas to Teletubbies. Una’s father (the film’s only true ’adult’) picks her up and insists on eating hot dogs and lecturing her on smoking in the middle of her overwhelming grief.

The quickly-organised memorial service for the dead will take place in a church which has been designed to look like an organ, where Una will teach Klara how to ‘fly’. Gunni (Mikael Kaaber), Diddi’s flatmate, sports an alarming mullet, making it almost impossible to focus on his heaving sobs. And throughout, there’s a sense of impermanence, of the shifting tides of friendships and relationships – something perhaps acknowledged in the film’s dedication to lives cut short.

The actors effectively surround Hall as Una. It’s her story, as the androgynous, pan-sexual artist devastated by the sudden loss of her lover and the fact he can’t be acknowledged as such. Newcomer Hall strikes a real presence. She’s posed a lot, it’s true – against the sun, the rust-coloured sheets of Diddi’s bedroom, the doggedly brown bar in which she works – but she’s as bright as the light of summer in Iceland, and her character seems just as likely to survive this problematic present. Technically adults – they all seem to be in their early twenties – the events of this day will scrub out childhoods from their fresh faces and set their futures.

Klapptré er sjálfstæður miðill sem birtir fréttir, viðhorf, gagnrýni og tölulegar upplýsingar um íslenska kvikmynda- og sjónvarpsbransann. Ritstjóri er Ásgrímur Sverrisson.