TIFF Day One: Jar City

Day one was supposed to be the easiest and least irritating day — only one movie — but it proved highly annoying. I decided to get two or three extra tickets for myself and I could try to get a pair for a friend that requested some but had no luck getting any. No luck on the latter as both of that movie’s screenings were “off sale” but the movies I wanted were still available so I got in line. I expected a line, having bought only individual tickets for the last two years, so I was prepared for it.

After thirty minutes of slow shuffling, from the outside heat into the cool AC breeze of the College Park doorway, the line stopped. Ten minutes passed and not a single step forward. Then twenty minutes. Then an announcement: the system is down. All of it. The website, the ticket booths, everything. But, “we hope to have everything back up and running in ten to fifteen minutes.” I already committed all this time so I wasn’t going to leave quite yet.

Forty minutes later and it was still dead. A new announcement was made. IF the system is back online before 6:30 everyone in line will be processed. The emphasis was on the if. I couldn’t afford to waste that much time, I had a movie to catch! So I cut my losses and left. What a waste of an hour and a half that was. Maybe I’ll try the rushline tomorrow.

An hour later and I was once again in line. This time, though, it was for something I already had a ticket for so I was more patient (I swear, half of the film festival is spent waiting in line). Jar City was my first film of 07.

Jar City is an Icelandic murder mystery that weaves together a modern day crime to a series of long forgotten scars in the 1970s. Holding it all together is a chain of heredity and genetics based on a controversial real-world genetic database of the country. It’s an interesting tale and an interesting premise marred by the predictability of that genetic hook. It’s a shame that a film that expertly reveals each little mystery fails to hide its biggest surprise.

That’s not to say that the journey to that end isn’t an enjoyable one. Complementing the wonderful shots of Icelandic wastelands and the interesting police choir score is the performance of Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson. In the Q&A after the film, the director said that in his previous movies he tended to make fun of the police and that, for this movie, he “owed them one.” Ingvar’s Detective Erlendur character is that debt repaid[1]. He’s a grizzled veteran that’s seen it all but still remains sympathetic and sad. His personal life, with his daughter, is a contrast to the lost relationships that shaped the motivations of the crooks in the film. And that side-story is kept brief enough to not detract from the main plotline.

It has its flaws and the end is predictable, though it does throw some curveballs to try to make you second guess your expectations, but overall not a bad way to start the festival. Thumb up!

Twitch review. Variety review. Torontoist review. NOW review.

Tomorrow I have four movies and Saturday I have five. Don’t expect similar writeups!

  1. Although Erlendur’s police partner is pictured as a foreign trained “pussy”.
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