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Under the Glacier

(Kristnihald undir jökli)
Iceland 1989. Dir: Gudný Halldórsdóttir. 89 min. 35mm

Adapted by Gudný Halldórsdóttir from the 1968 novel by her father, Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness, this absurdist fable follows Umbi (Sigurdur Sigurjónsson), a young emissary sent by the Bishop of Iceland to investigate a village at the foot of the famous Snaefells glacier. The church authorities fear that the parish pastor (Baldvin Halldórsson) has allowed his flock to slip back into older, pagan ways. Those fears prove justified: Umbi finds the local church shuttered and the village a haven for all kinds of theologically unorthodox oddballs, including a self-styled guru, the anarcho-hippie cultists who worship him, and the pastor’s mysterious, estranged wife (Margrét Helga Jóhannsdóttir), who, reportedly, has returned from the dead after transmogrifying into a fish! Under the Glacier is profoundly cerebral, kind of trippy, and one of the most daring Icelandic films of the 1980s. — SG/TIFF