Films: Volcano

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Iceland, 2011, 99 Minute Running Time
Additional Countries: Denmark
Genre/Subjects: Drama, Family Issues, Medical/Health
Program: Contemporary World Cinema
Language: Dutch English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Rúnar Rúnarsson
Producer: Thor Sigurjonsson, Skuli Malmquist, Thomas Gammeltoft, Egil Dennerline
Editor: Jacob Schulsinger
Screenwriter: Rúnar Rúnarsson
Cinematographer: Sophia Olsson
Principal Cast: 

Icelandic writer-director Rúnar Rúnarsson describes his first feature as a “coming-of-age story about a 67-year-old man.” It opens with elegiac images of a volcanic eruption that devastated an Icelandic coastal town in the 1970s before fast-forwarding to the present—when Hannes (Theódór Júlíusson), a survivor of the disaster, is retiring from his job as a school custodian. He advises his successor that it’s best if the students fear him; at his sparsely attended retirement party, Hannes responds to the principal’s gently teasing farewell by saying “My skin is thicker than a shark’s. I can take it.”

But can he? Hannes attempts suicide; upon failing, he returns home to his long-suffering wife, adult children, and grandchild. As they share their lives over dinner, Hannes can only gripe about the soup. Then a pair of mishaps—one trivial, the other devastating—forces Hannes to reassess his long-held emotional isolation.

Volcano was featured in the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes this year, and Rúnarsson’s short The Last Farm was nominated in 2006 for an Academy Award. In short, his talent shines bright against a cold oceanic backdrop; here, his gift for understated realism and economical storytelling lends power to this moving drama about one man’s long-overdue struggles with existential loss and familial reconnection.

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