Angels of the Universe

Institute History

  • 2001 Sundance Film Festival


Paul is young, in love, and talented beyond measure: a musician and painter with a natural gift for storytelling and poetry. He meets Dagny at the library and whispers in her ear, "Your blood is rushing through my veins." Soon they are lovers, but within days she has rejected him, pressured by her mother's snobbish disdain for Paul's lower social class—his father is a mere taxicab driver. This is the beginning of Paul's descent into hell: breakdown, schizophrenia, and institutionalization.

The bleak plot of Angels of the Universe, unsparing in its penetrating depiction of the torment of madness, is told with such sympathy for its characters, such humor, such strong lyric dialogue, and such lush and artful cinematography that the viewer is drawn effortlessly inside Paul's world. Director Fridrik Thór Fridriksson exercises masterful control over the film's incessantly changing moods, which range from tender to grim and from despairing to moments of exuberance. In one of the funniest of these, Paul and his two friends skip an inmate's funeral to celebrate their loss in the town's most expensive restaurant. Their conversation is one of the many zany, mind-bending dialogues in which screenwriter and novelist Einar Már Gudmundsson captures the offbeat but coherent inner logic of schizophrenia with perfect fidelity, poetic eloquence, and philosophical depth. Combined with cinematographer Harald Paulgaard's superb and sometimes-surrealistic camera work and a luscious soundtrack, the result is a tour de force.

— Nicole Guillemet

Screening Details

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