Institute History

  • 2003 Sundance Film Festival


In his brilliant, remarkably assured second feature, Icelandic wunderkind Baltasar Kormakur embarks on a treacherous voyage through roiling undercurrents of family dysfunction. In the process he artfully reveals struggles with modernization in his country's remote fishing villages.

In the vein of classical tragedy, aging patriarch Thordur assembles his scattered heirs to discuss the future of the family fishery. But bringing everyone together unleashes a storm of long-repressed agonies among the vividly drawn characters—sexual abuse, lingering suspicions, sibling rivalries, and incestuous passions. Ultimately, it's a heartless battle between the past and the future that culminates in a night of explosive rage.

Kormakur uses exquisitely composed widescreen photography to convey the pristine, placid beauty of the Icelandic landscape, a terrain that belies emotional unrest and painful societal shifts. Gorgeous golden hour light invokes the days before technology and quotas disrupted fishing traditions and family order. The future seems dire as a generation of zombielike teens narcotize themselves with video games and Coca-Cola. Kormakur wisely spikes this serious-minded tale with cutting, quirky humor in the recurring appearance of an errant black ram and a feisty, plain-spoken granny.

True to its title, The Sea dives down into the depths and brings back a treasure of insight into the human condition and the modern global situation.

— Caroline Libresco

Screening Details

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