Noi the Albino

Director: Dagur Kari

Iceland-Denmark-German-U.K.| 2003. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 90 mins.

Actually, teenager Noi isn’t really an albino at all, just tall, bald and very much his own man. He knows for his own sake he needs to make tracks from the remote Icelandic fjord community where he has grown up, but it’s working out his next move that’s the stumbling block. In the meantime, he’s mooching his way through secondary school and nearing the point of expulsion, retiring to his private space in an underground cellar to clear his thoughts, and somewhat smitten by the new waitress in the local cafe, despite her dad’s evident animosity. Sooner or later something’s got to give.
All of which sounds like a fairly familiar rites of passage tale, yet first-time writer-director Dagur Kari (a graduate from the National Film School of Denmark, home of the ‘Dogme’ generation) never settles for the routine. For one thing, the searing white vistas of his near-Arctic location give the proceedings a striking visual scale and distinctively stark quality of light, allowing for some surprising image-making (where did that huge American car come from?). In the central role, Tomas Lemarquis may be making his screen debut, and does look somewhat like a sprouted Bart Simpson, yet he’s fascinating to watch for the way he consistently underplays yet draws our sympathy to a character still in the process of sorting himself out. With its deadpan wit and occasional absurdity all underlaid by an obvious compassion for the material, the film’s undoubtedly on the Aki Kaurismaki wavelength; and although Kari hasn’t quite reached that level of mastery just yet, the potently disarming final reel surely marks him as a filmmaker with a great eye and definite promise.

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