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L’iceberg (2005)

Fiona is the manager of a fast-food restaurant. She lives comfortably with her family in the suburbs. In other words, Fiona is happy... until one day she accidentally gets locked into a walk-in fridge. She escapes the next morning, half frozen and barely alive, only to realize that her husband and two children didn't even notice she was missing. But when Fiona develops an obsession for everything cold and icy: snow, polar bears, fridges, icebergs--she drops everything, climbs into a frozen goods delivery truck and leaves home. For a real iceberg.

L’iceberg (2005)


I’ve seen one other project from this couple, ‘Rumba.‘ I liked it, but this one seems so much better, less cute and choreographed.

All storytelling is about abstraction. Sometimes that can be done in ways that by agreement, we see as invisible. We think of the result as visible ‘reality.‘ But at other times the reduction is obvious, so becomes a part of the conveyance. In such cases, there is the opportunity to purify and concentrate. Chaplin could do it; few others since.

Fiona Gordon can. She has created a character and style that has several advantages. The story has a simple grand arc, but is essentially episodic, with discrete scenes shot with a static camera. Each is carefully staged and always has a gag. So you get the feeling that the story is not in what happens in the large, but what is happening right now. You never wonder where the thing is going; instead you lean closer in your chair to enjoy what you get now.

She is every bit the physical genius that Chaplin was. She‘s created a gaunt, redheaded, buxom, nerdy, accident-prone woman. She‘s just enough outside normal film character templates to seem human, without inducing (at least in this male viewer) conditioned responses. The placement is a considerable achievement even before the story is delivered.

That overall story is one of the least important elements, but deserves a remark. What Fiona‘s character does on screen is experience a frigid night, being locked away in a restaurant freezer. This is indirectly linked to her home life. (Her family never missed her.)

She runs away — partly by accident — and decides to enlist a man in taking her to an iceberg on his small sailboat. Her husband follows. I greatly appreciate that the metaphor of cold emotional distance is not ground into our face, but that it is there and conveyed by quite indirect means, in the framing and character movements.

I saw this with another French-influenced film: ‘Rubber.‘ The difference could not be more obvious. Here is a collection of novel techniques, subtly coordinated that if you let them will affect you for weeks. The understatement allows power. ‘Rubber‘ was all clear, overstated, overtly clever and wholly unengaging.

Posted in 2011

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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