Written by Caballero Oscuro
L’Iceberg inhabits the eccentric, fantasy world of comedy films populated by the likes of The Life Aquatic and Amélie, barely keeping one foot in reality while stepping far out into its highly stylized fictional realm. It’s the kind of film where a character on a quest to live on an iceberg makes perfect sense, although the payoff is entirely derived from the antics during trip to get there.
Fiona (Fiona Gordon) is a mousy manager of a fast food restaurant stuck in the rut of her monotonous daily routine and family life in Belgium. After she accidentally locks herself in the restaurant’s freezer room overnight, she’s shocked to find that her husband and children didn’t even notice she was missing. She subsequently develops a fondness for the cold that leads her to stow away on a freezer truck as she runs away from her normal life. Upon reaching a remote coastal town, she spots a mysterious stranger with a small sailboat and sets out to convince him to transport her to an iceberg where she can presumably enter a solitary seclusion since she doesn’t feel appreciated at home. It’s a funny setup, but an even more ambitious and amusing production.
The film propels itself forward with nearly wordless physical comedy and intricate staging that brings to mind the earliest silent film comedies. When Fiona’s husband tracks her down in the coastal town, there are no words spoken, and the meeting is observed by a group of the town’s residents tightly clustered together in a bunch between them. The entire scene takes place as a static wide angle shot with the husband on the left, the unaware Fiona on the right, and the bunch of observers in the middle, slowly shuffling back and forth en masse to observe the principals like spectators at a tennis match. At another point, the always strange Fiona finds her gallant sailor René (Phillipe Martz) pretending to swim on the prow of their boat (the aptly named Le Titaniqué) and proceeds to place a bucket of water directly under his face to simulate swimming in the sea. It’s unexpected, wildly eccentric moments like these that contribute to making this such a refreshing and enjoyable comedy.
The film was co-written and directed by the triumvirate of Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, and Bruno Romy, first-time feature film creators but longtime collaborators in theater and short film productions. It’s no surprise that the film’s creators/stars have an extensive background in circus performance, as they constantly exhibit a flair for prolonged physical comedy that seems more rooted in the big top than the cinema. More surprising is the effective dramatic staging that expertly conveys that this is fantasy tale set within in the real world. The suburbs and restaurant are completely sterile and uniform, while the seaside town and sailboat are ramshackle and charming, and all are captured in beautifully composed static shots that allow viewers to fully enter their world.
L’Iceberg opens in New York on May 4th and is currently playing in limited release in various other US markets over the next few months. For additional information, locations, and a trailer, visit the First Run Features website.