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'Children of Nature'

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 14, 1994


Fridrik Thor Fridriksson
Gislia Halldorsson;
Sigridur Hagalin
Not rated

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"Children of Nature," Icelandic director Fridrik Thor Fridriksson's film about a geriatric couple who bust out of a Reykjavik rest home and set out for their real home on the remote western fjords, is a poetic little character study that, according to its own modest terms, is just about perfect.

The movie moves at the same glacial pace as its characters, and, at first, Fridriksson seems to be working out of some perverse desire to test his audience's patience by eliminating every trace of commercialism from his style. At the outset, his protagonist, Thorgein (Gisli Halldorsson), is trying unsuccessfully to fit into life with his daughter and her kids in their tiny city apartment. But, though Halldorsson scores with his slow-motion comic minimalism, the film doesn't really get started until this crusty old farmer is shipped off to the nursing home where he meets Stella (Sigridur Hagalin), who, as fate would have it, was the old boy's childhood sweetheart.

As the home's resident rebel without a cause, Stella doesn't hesitate to let everyone know she is miserable in this old folks' prison. And, in his low-key way, Thorgein is just as determined to make a break. Immediately after their reunion, the two begin making plans for their great escape. After closing out their bank accounts, they pack their bags, lace up their new tennis shoes, slip past the guards and, like a slightly road-worn Bonnie and Clyde, hot-wire a parked jeep and head for the open road.

Rather than head off on a crime spree, though, these unlikely lovers decide to make a seemingly impossible pilgrimage to the village where they were born. And as they approach their destination, trekking deeper and deeper into the starkly handsome Icelandic landscape, the style of the film becomes more and more fanciful. By the end, the movie seems to have evolved far beyond the simple naturalism of its early scenes into a kind of fable. The cramped city spaces have been replaced by the haunting majesty of the raw countryside, and the laconic, observational comedy has given way to more potent, more tragic emotions. Even with these developments, "Children of Nature" remains resolutely small. It's a chamber piece, one with passages of sublime beauty and feeling.

Children of Nature is unrated.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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