Noi the Albino (Nói Albinói) (2003)
|Category||Drama||Theatrical Trailer-1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (1:56)|
|Year Of Production||2003|
|Running Time||88:27 (Case: 93)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Dagur Kári|
Zik Zak Filmworks
Warner Home Video
Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||Icelandic Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.66:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.75:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
In the cinematic travels around the film world outside of Hollywood, I have managed to indulge films from Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, China, Japan, Thailand, India, Iran, United Kingdom, France, Poland, Germany, Russia, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, amongst others. Despite the wanderings, I had not yet sampled anything from Iceland, so when the opportunity came to remove Noi The Albino from the dud pile, it seemed an opportunity rather more interesting than reviewing (say) the fifth incarnation of the Beethoven series.
The purpose of these wanderings into unfamiliar territory is at its core simply a journey into the unknown, on the firm basis that something esoteric has got to be a darn sight more interesting than checking out the latest blockbuster from Hollywood. There are, however, occasions when interesting is perhaps not quite what is attained from the journey into the cinematic unknown. Regrettably, the debut feature from young Icelandic director Dagur Kári is one of those occasions. Whilst the film immediately preceding this through the player was Spider-Man 2 (a depressingly poor follow-up to the original film in my view), and therefore there was a relatively low comparison risk for Noi The Albino, I have to say that from an entertainment point of view, the Icelandic film is sadly lacking. From a cinematic interest point of view, the film also fails somewhat and the end result is that I would not be overly encouraged to check out further films from the area had this been the work of a more experienced director. Being the work of a debut director, however, does mean that one has to give a little more lenience to the film and accordingly it will prove interesting to see where the director goes from here.
This is not to say that there is nothing impressive about the film. Whilst the story plays as another rebel without a cause (or plan) effort, there are genuinely funny moments to be found amongst some of the rather stark filmmaking. Certainly a little more prudence in the editing of the film might have aided the film somewhat, although it would seem reasonably clear that the director had a vision and pretty much stuck to his guns in the realisation of the vision. So we have a film that has a very steely, cold feel to it, used to emphasise the sheer starkness of the setting of the film as well as the starkness of the future of people living in the town depicted. We sure are not talking about the bright lights of Las Vegas here! With the very cold feel of the film, and with the deliberately spartan sets (and settings), everything is designed to contribute to the starkness of the place and the bleakness of life there.
The film is set in a small town at the base of a large, monolithic-like promontory (that pretty much dominates the town) at the end of an isolated fjord in the north west of Iceland. We are talking about about an isolated spot of one of the most isolated countries on Earth. It's winter and it's tough, the sort of place that is ideal for loners. So for the young people, it is about as boring as watching paint dry, the sort of environment where those who lack self-motivation can easily find themselves following a path that might not be good for their future. So it is that we have the story of Nói Kristmundsson (Tómas Lemarquis), a seventeen year old with a poor attitude to most things including school. He lives with his grandmother Lína (Anna Fridriksdóttir), a woman of limited communication who spends a lot of time doing jigsaws, as a result of his alcoholic father Kristimundur (Thröstur Leó Gunnarsson) having not quite abandoned him earlier in his life. We obviously will not forget to note that of course the lack of parental influence is partly to blame for what happens to Nói. With a limited interest in school, to the extent of having a tape recorder taken into class to record the lessons for him, there is little to keep Nói occupied otherwise. Naturally he starts to fall into some bad habits, including alcohol and petty vandalism and crime. Things suddenly change somewhat, however, when Íris (Elín Hansdóttir) arrives back in town after some problems away in the big smoke (presumably Reykjavik) and takes employment at the local gas station - which is a place that Nói frequents often. Taking a fancy to Íris, she becomes something of a focus of Nói's desire to escape the drudgery that is his life. With mounting pressures on him, Noi decides to put into action the thoughts that Íris and he had during an interlude in the local museum after hours. Trouble is, Íris and he may not actually be on the same book, let alone the same page.
It is all very simple stuff that moves along in a very minimalist kind of way, with just about every conversation or situation designed to ensure that we thoroughly get the idea of the square peg in the round hole, where the environment does not provide the stimulation necessary for the obviously intelligent Nói. In the end, it is perhaps that constant iteration that provides the reason why the film does not truly succeed in what it aims to achieve. It is just a little too obvious, most especially with the constant reference back to the image of the small town at the base of the large monolithic promontory. If this were an American comedy, it would be called unsubtle. Still, the drama is occasionally split by some genuinely comedic moments - but that too is perhaps a little too obvious as they in broad terms provide the only warmth in the film, the only time we get nice warm colours or bright primary colours. The general level of acting ability is mediocre, which is not exactly unexpected as the cast is pretty much amateur across the board, which does not entirely help the execution of the film either.
Probably a case of the ability of the people involved falling somewhat short of the necessary ability to make the film meet the expectations of all concerned. Mildly interesting at best but I seriously doubt that I will be returning to this film ever again - frankly once is more than enough in this case.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and it is not 16x9 enhanced. I can find no definitive information as to what the original aspect ratio is, although the Region 1 and Region 2 releases are in an aspect ratio of 1.75:1.
The transfer is overall pretty good, let down more than anything by the inherent weakness of the source material I would guess, along with the artistic decisions of the director. The transfer is reasonably sharp, but obviously lacking the absolute nth degree of sharpness - no doubt exactly as the director intended. Detail is more than adequate, but the sets and locations themselves are deliberately sparse, so no great detail is really necessary here at all. There is a deal of grain present, mainly in the darker scenes - where it probably also combines with some low level noise. Shadow detail is pretty shocking at times - but this is almost certainly intended by the director.
Okay, so you really cannot judge the colours by any "normal" standard, as the director has chosen a deliberately cold (indeed very cold) palette to emphasise the isolated nature of the main character and the town. There is a distinctive grey/blue feel to everything, so you really cannot miss the obvious intent here. The only time you get any warmth is through the odd light shining from within buildings. Other than that, bright primary colours make a very infrequent appearance, mainly in emphasis of comedic moments. There certainly is little here that could be considered vibrant, with interiors especially showing a distinctly matte, often dullish, look. As it was intended, the palette has to be accepted as an accurate interpretation of the director's intent. You can bet there are no problems with oversaturation or colour bleed here.
MPEG artefacts don't seem to be a problem in the transfer, which is unfortunately not the same that can be said about film-to-video artefacts. Whilst there is nothing seriously awry, there are certainly a number of instances of aliasing to be seen in the transfer (such as on the piano keys at 45:50 and on the car at 72:00) and there is some very slight moiré artefacting in the patterned wallpaper at 58:50. Nothing too serious but there nonetheless. There were a few more film artefacts than I was expecting, some being rather obvious black specks that are easily noted whilst watching the film.
This is a single layer, single sided DVD so you can forget about any layer change.
There is just the sole subtitle option on the DVD, although it really is not an option as it is non-selectable. So if you happen to be able to speak Icelandic, you are still going to have to watch the film with burned in English subtitles. Obviously I cannot comment upon the accuracy of the subtitles (although they seem to be consistent with the tone of the film), but at least one glaring spelling error was noted - expected was shown as expexted somewhere near the 66:00 mark.
There is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, which according to my player is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 effort. This is of course somewhat wrong - it is in fact an Icelandic soundtrack.
The dialogue comes well in the transfer and is easy enough to understand, at least if you understand Icelandic. There did not seem to be any issues with audio sync in the transfer.
The original music score is provided by Orri Jonsson and Dagur Kári, brought to life courtesy of the director's own band Slowblow. It is not too shabby but again is rather less than distinctive - matching much of the film.
There really is not a fat lot to say about the soundtrack, which really is very respectable with no obvious issues. It is just a little flat, quite consistently too, with just the odd hint of congestion that is almost certainly inherent in the source material. You certainly are not going to experience much in the way of a dynamic, with only the odd instance (notably the avalanche) where there gets to be some serious body to the sound.
|Surround Channel Use|
Nothing much here, which is hellishly disappointing given that both the Region 1 and Region 2 releases have reasonable extras packages.
Pretty basic stuff.
Theatrical Trailer (1:56)
Quite unamazingly the basic two minute trailer pretty well presents a comprehensive two minute version of the film. The technical quality is well on a par with the main feature, although it appears to be in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced and has an Icelandic Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The English subtitles are non-selectable unfortunately.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 release of the film features a 16x9 enhanced 1.75:1 video transfer with an Icelandic Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, which would immediately make the release more preferable than the Region 4, at least if it is closer to the original theatrical aspect ratio. Add into the package some deleted scenes, a making of documentary and some trailers, and the Region 4 looks rather poor in comparison.
But even the Region 1 release has to bow to the Region 2 (United Kingdom) release. It too features a 16x9 enhanced 1.75:1 video transfer with an Icelandic Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but the extras package includes deleted scenes, a making of documentary, an interview with the director and an audio commentary. Obviously the Region 2 release is by far and away the preferable version, especially as the transfers are at least as good as the Region 4 by the accounts found.
There really is nothing that obviously indicates Noi The Albino is an Icelandic film, barring the language of course, which is a good thing in my view. However, it does mean that the story needs to be stronger, the acting needs to be stronger and the filmmaking itself needs to be stronger in order to make this film stand out more than it does. Competent but simply lacking some distinction is about the best way I can describe this. Interesting enough but hardly an essential purchase - if you want to check out the film, you might be best advised to rent it rather than buy it.
|DVD||Denon DVD-1600, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|