Appellate Judge James A. Stewart discovers that there's a Mrs. Hulot, and she eschews warm weather holidays.
"If physical comedy has become rare, it's probably because it's a risky form of art."
L'Iceberg starts off talky, with a woman introducing herself, then saying, "Let me tell you how I met my husband." The introductory dialogue is in Inuktitut, an arctic language, with subtitles.
You won't be doing a lot of reading, though. L'Iceberg is a mostly silent comedy in the tradition of Jacques Tati's Mr. Hulot's Holiday (as is the current Mr. Bean's Holiday).
"We all have a theater and circus background," the people behind the film say in the production notes. While the team has done several short films, L'Iceberg is their first feature-length effort, shot for 750,000 euros (just over $1 million U.S.). The script collaborators are Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel, and Bruno Romy. Gordon and Abel also star in L'Iceberg, with Philippe Martz.
What sort of film is L'Iceberg? Here's a quote from the production notes that could explain it—or not: "Is it a poetic fantasy, a physical comedy or a melancholy study of love and relationships? For us it's all three."
Will you warm up to this Belgian movie or will L'Iceberg just leave you cold?
Facts of the Case
Fast food restaurant manager Fiona (Fiona Gordon) returns after closing to put a forgotten item in the freezer. Her scarf gets caught in the door and she is accidentally locked inside for the night.
Until the shattered Fiona breaks a glass in the kitchen and runs out of the room the next day, her husband Julien (Dominique Abel) and children don't realize that something has happened to her.
Initially, she's afraid to go back in the freezer for fear of being shut in permanently. But soon she's getting acclimated to it again, even just sitting in the freezer.
After Fiona gets locked in a freezer truck, she heads off with mariner René (Philippe Martz) in his boat, Le Titanique, in search of an iceberg.
What's surprising about L'Iceberg is that you can tell a lot of story with little or no dialogue. True, it's nice to have someone tell us René's back story, but aside from that opening in Inuktitut, there's no dialogue that's necessary. You could follow this movie just as well without the subtitles.
The trio of Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel, and Bruno Romy always finds new ways to further the story without words. One favorite early scene shows Fiona mumbling into a pillow during an argument so that husband Julien can't hear her. He responds by grabbing a pillow and mumbling into it himself. A later scene has Fiona hiring René's boat by drawing a picture of what she wants to do.
In the notes, Gordon, Able, and Romy say that "character psychology" isn't a big part of L'Iceberg. That's not true. L'Iceberg works because Fiona, Julien, and René become rounded characters. True, there's a lot of slapstick and it's funny. But L'Iceberg gets better as it goes along because it's easy to identify with Fiona's quest, Julien's fears of losing his wife, and René's awkwardness because of deafness and a tragedy in his childhood. That's a neat trick, since these personas don't have the built-in familiarity that Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp did in the 1920s and 1930s.
The film's slightly surreal look is established with "visual tricks rather than digital effects," the production notes reveal. The cast doesn't go anywhere near any icebergs, but L'Iceberg looks good nonetheless. The wintry wind that's often in the background sounds good enough to make you shiver, too.
Extras include some interesting production notes (although I'd have liked to have seen them in a booklet so I could give my clicker finger a break) and biographical information.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
If you just don't like slapstick or haven't been exposed to the silent world of Charlie Chaplin and his contemporaries, L'Iceberg will take some getting used to.
Some of the scenes that show the monotony of Fiona's and Julien's ordinary life can be, well, monotonous. They help us get into the characters, but L'Iceberg really takes off when Fiona's quest kicks into high gear.
Although most of the movie is G-rated, there are occasional glimpses of nudity as characters change clothes.
L'Iceberg is an ambitious movie that usually succeeds. The gags aren't as riotous and catastrophic as those of Mr. Bean and Mr. Hulot. Instead, there's a sweet, human quality to L'Iceberg that will take you into another world for a while. I can't wait to see what Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel, and Bruno Romy come up with next.
It's definitely worth a look. While you'll have to pay attention, at least you can ignore the subtitles.
L'Iceberg may not be enough to make the Arctic Circle a tourist destination, but it's not guilty.
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