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    The Seagull's Laughter

    Isle be back

    A woman's return to her native Icelandic village, bearing worldly fashions and exotic ideas, shakes up societal traditions in the sometimes mannered, sometimes devious comedy "The Seagull's Laughter."


    It doesn't feel like it this winter, but New York apparently burns with a fire that would melt all the ice in Iceland. At least that's the idea that sparks "The Seagull's Laughter," a strange mix of sexy comedy and deadly thriller from that other frigid island in the Atlantic.

    Original title: M‡vahl‡tur.
    Written and directed by: çgœst Gudmundsson.
    Adapted from the novel by: Kristin Marja Baldursd—ttir.
    Cast: MargrŽt Vilhj‡lmsd—ttir, Ugla Egilsd—ttir, Heino Ferch, Hilmir Sn¾r Gudnason, Kristbjšrg Kjeld, Edda Bjorg Eyjolfsdottir, Gudlaug Olafsdottir, Eyvindur Erlendsson, Benedikt Erlingsson, Halld—ra Geirhardsd—ttir, Jonina Olafsdottir, Dilja Mist.
    In Icelandic with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site
    The story starts when the gorgeous Freya (MargrŽt Vilhj‡lmsd—ttir) comes back home unexpectedly to her backward 1950s Icelandic fishing village years after leaving to get married in New York and, everyone assumed, never be seen in these godforsaken parts again. She comes back with gifts for all the women in the family — an entire wardrobe so fashionable that everyone else in town looks baggy and gray by comparison. This makeover from America only fuels the woman's curiosity about what could possibly drag Freya back from the land of excitement to her stultifyingly conservative native village. It turns out her husband met a vague but definitive end.

    The Seagull's Laughter  
    "He died while I was defrosting the refrigerator," Freya tells the women.

    "You had a refrigerator!" they all marvel in unison.

    It will be this kind of a movie — if the redemption of women from traditional oppression must be accomplished with a few mysterious male misfortunes, that will be nothing compared to the wonders that the modern world, suddenly less distant than before, seems to offer. If the new world can be reached with good humor and chic outfits, all the better.

    Only one person sees the sinister hand of evil in this new development — Freya's 11-year-old niece Agga. She steals away to warn the local constable, Magnus (Hilmir Sn¾r Gudnason of "101 Reykjavik"), of the looming danger. "She's evil," the girl pleads. "She's cold, like a corpse." But Magnus, a former suitor himself who still may have a less-than-innocent interest in the ravishing returnee, sees nothing. As the village men start dropping, no one's the wiser.

    There are more dimensions to this tale, as Freya sets her sights on one of the town's richest eligible men, Bjšrn Theodor (the handsome German actor Heino Ferch of "Winter Sleepers"), and begins to upset the class order in addition to the sexual hierarchy. Pointed references to working-class identity and socialist politics are likely to go a bit over the heads of an American audience — like the particulars of local tradition, the quaint way of life and the characters' sense of manners, they seem aimed directly at the Icelandic viewer. But "The Seagull's Laughter" remains an appealing little comedy. It seems light and airy most of the way through, but — like the time and place it's set in, apparently — has more going on beneath the surface than one might first think.

    FEBRUARY 13, 2004

    Reader comments on The Seagull's Laughter:

  • The Seagull's Laughter   from Dave Beemon, Oct 30, 2006
  • Re: The Seagull's Laughter   from Natalie, Mar 21, 2007
  • Seagull`s laughter is amazing, stanning movie!   from Natalie, Mar 21, 2007
  • Re: Seagull`s laughter is amazing, stanning movie!   from Dave Beemon, May 14, 2007
  • Mystical and somewhat humorous   from Paul Mcsharry, Nov 24, 2007
  • The Seagull's Laughter   from Lynne Crandall, Jan 11, 2008
  • Feminine Mysticism   from Gerald Doempke, Jan 30, 2008

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