12 Days of Christmas 101 Reykjavik

It might not officially be The 12 Days of Christmas, but FILM IN WORDS will still fill your festive viewing schedule with cheer. From beloved movies that have become an irreplaceable holiday tradition to cult and lesser known Xmas cuts that promise to subvert and haunt your holidays, there’s something for everyone all the way up to Christmas Eve.

Words: Brody Rossiter
Twitter: @BrodyRossiter


During the late-nineties and early noughties, depictions of young adults and their fondness for essentially behaving like oversized children with unlimited access to alcohol were all the rage. Here in England, countless sitcoms featuring friendship groups whose primary concern was ultimately to have sex with one another ruled post-watershed viewing schedules, and taught those in their late-twenties and early-thirties that these were these best regretful days and drunken nights of their lives. 101 Reykjavik is one such vibrant narrative, only it’s a film, it’s set in the throes of an Icelandic winter, and it makes for some fantastic alternative Christmas viewing.

Thirty-year-old Hlynur spends his days drinking, watching porn and idly surfing the web on one of those colourful Apple desktop computers in his cramped mother’s apartment. Between eating his morning (well, noonish) bowl of cereal in the bath and going out to party in the local pub, he manages to dodge all adult responsibilities and repeatedly erase the faint hope of having a relationship that’s actually meaningful.

Unlike all those aforementioned TV shows set in the heart of bustling cities, where every time you bend over to tie your shoelace an attractive jogger would collide with your face, or an office that had a revolving door of super-hot colleagues for you to form an unhealthy working relationship with, 101 Reykjavik finds its characters stranded in titular city’s downtown area (The “101” represent the postcode of “the old city”) often snowed into their sleepy surrounding, and dependent upon the transient thill of sex and alcohol for entertainment. So when Lola (Victoria Abril), a free-spirited, Spanish Flamenco dancing friend of Hlynur’s mother arrives in town, you can understand why the hermit decides to start getting out of bed a little earlier.

So here’s the best and worst of 101 Reykjavik. Firstly it’s a wonderfully attractive film that shrouds its environments and the characters inside them in candlelight and shadow. It’s as though the story takes place inside the bowels of a great ship, and our characters venture out of its wood-lined hull every weekend for beer, smokes and the sensation of another’s touch. The whole thing’s strangely mesmerising and makes you long to run outside into a blizzard so you can dive right back in and strip out of your wet clothes beside the fire –hopefully with a friend. The worst is that the film is in desperate need of restoration despite only receiving its theatrical release in 2000. Perhaps physical copies are in better shape transfer wise than the digital version I viewed, but it’s still a real shame for a film so full romantic imagery to dullened by technical shortcomings.

With a soundtrack from Damon Albarn, which is very good, but also explains the weird Kinks covers, a highly attractive aesthetic, a unique and loveable set of characters, 101 Reykjavik is a darkly comic (one scene depicts Hlynur daydreaming about brutally murdering his far-flung relatives over Christmas dinner) and playfully romantic, sometimes erotic, tale of one man’s sexual entanglement with his mother’s lesbian lover. Seriously, what more could you ask for at Christmas.

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