Scandinavian Film Festival Review: Paris Of The North (París Nordursins)

A teacher escapes to a remote fishing village in Iceland for the summer to live out his comfortable spiral of exercise, alcoholicism and Portugese lessons.

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Iceland is a beautiful country and the perfect setting for a film like this one. Paris of the North is a sombre drama/comedy about a man who has essentially given up on the outside world.

Hugi (Björn Thors) is a teacher who escapes to a remote fishing village in the northwest of Iceland for the summer. In this tiny, isolate village (with a population of just 150 people), Hugi is free to live out his comfortable spiral of exercise, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and taking lessons in Portugese. The only thing that could possible shake Hugi out of his rut is a visit from his estranged, alcoholic father, Veigar (Helgi Björnsson).

Hugi must battle his own addictions, his rising wanderlust and the memory of his ex in order to retain his sanity and peace of mind – but is it worth holding on so deeply that it stops you from experiencing all that life has to offer?

Paris of the North is a film all about feeling and atmosphere. It explores the truth behind the saying “you only live once” and questions our little comfort zones. While it upholds a sort of detached, impersonal style throughout, it delves deeply into the character’s troubled inner-thoughts to perhaps stir up a sense of adventure in the viewer.

There’s not much to say about the acting in this film. Thors and Björnsson are both great. This is a profoundly realistic depiction of life with no flourishes or explosions of drama. To pull off such subdued and gritty characters is a good gauge for an actor’s skill level.

The general aesthetic of this film plays a massive part within it. Imagine a movie made by Wes Anderson, but during a rather bleak and depressing period of his life, and with maybe a bit of artistic input from The Coen Brothers. However, such comparisons will obviously be pointless if you’re familiar with Scandinavian films. It’d be easier to say that this is definitely an Icelandic movie to the bone!

My favourite part about this film (which I’ve been finding with many similar movies as of late) is the soundtrack, for sure! The bitter-sweet post-rock and slightly goofy electronic rock songs are catchy and emotive, and capture the tone of the movie and emotions of the characters. The “theme” song by band Prins Póló is a great example to share!

Paris of the North could definitely benefit from a more solid narrative direction. The film’s stories and subplots just don’t seem interconnected enough and fit rather loosely into the overall package of the film. Until the very, very end, nothing seems to lead anywhere and we’re just left watching Hugi run around feeling blue.

Despite that, Paris of the North is a pleasant film. It’s not entirely heart-warming, or hilarious, but it has a very human quality that is undeniably engaging.

Reviewed by James Rudd
Twitter: @james_wrr

Rating out of 10:  6

Paris of the North will screen on 24 July 2015 at part of the Scandinavian Film Festival, running 22-29 July 2015 exclusively at the Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas.

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