UNDER THE TREE (UNDIR TRENU)
(director/writer: Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson; screenwriter: story and screenplay Huldar Breiðfjörð; cinematographer: Monika Lenczewska; editor: Kristján Loðmfjörð; music: Daniel Bjarnason; cast: Þorsteinn Bachmann (Konrad), Selma Björnsdóttir (Eybjorg), SteinÞór Hróar SteinÞórsson (Atli), Sigurður Sigurjónsson (Baldvin), Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir (Agnes), Edda Björgvinsdóttir (Inga), Dóra Jóhannsdóttir (Rakel), Sigríður Sigurpálsdóttir Scheving (Asa); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Grímar Jónsson, Sindri Páll Kjartansson, Þórir Snær Sigurjónsson; Magnolia Pictures 2017-Iceland/Poland/Demmark/Germany/France-in Icelandic with English subtitles)
“A well-made but too nasty for my taste Icelandic black comedy about a festering feud between neighbors over a tree.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A well-made but too nasty for my taste Icelandic black comedy about a festering feud between neighbors over a tree. It’s written and directed by the witty Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson (“Paris of the North/”Either Way”), and is adapted from a story by co-writer Huldar Breiðfjörð. It’s inspired by a real-life incident in a quiet suburban section of Reykjavik.
A tree on the front lawn of Inga (Edda Björgvinsdóttir) and Baldvin’s (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) house casts a shadow blocking the sun on the lawn of their younger neighbors, Konrad (Þorsteinn Bachmann) and his physically active younger wife Eybjorg (Selma Björnsdóttir). Despite many polite requests from the younger couple for them to trim the tree, the elderly Baldvin refuses to trim the tree and his spiteful physically unfit wife Inga even refuses to respond to their pleas.
When Baldvin and Inga’s idiotic married son Atli (Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson) is caught by his volatile wife Agnes (Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir) masturbating to a sex video, he’s thrown out and comes to live with mom and dad.
When Inga’s cat goes missing she blames the younger couple with no proof and goes nutty on them with curses, throwing bags of dog poop on their lawn and slashing their car tires. The younger couple install security cameras around their house to catch their bad neighbor in the act.
The droll humor never catches fire and the incidents seem more mean-spirited than funny. It’s an unpleasant watch that doesn’t find a way to get enough laughs out of this feud as it thinks it might have. But as social satire, in this uncivil age of the Trump-era, it checks all the boxes of how divisive things have become because people are quick to hate on the other and even separate themselves as either dog lovers or cat lovers (as depicted here) and can’t find a middle-ground to abide with either side in this new age of anxiety that the filmmaker cleverly hones in on.
REVIEWED ON 11/4/2018 GRADE: B-