From Iceland, Denmark, Germany, Japan and the U.S., Fridrik Thor Fridriksson’s Cold Fever is a road film, a glorious multilingual fish-out-of-water comedy. Atsushi Hirata, a young Japanese executive for a fish company (yes; also mull over the guy’s first name), visits Iceland out of filial respect. His parents died there accidentally seven years earlier, and he will need to get to the site of their deaths, a remote river, and perform a traditional memorial service to set their souls at rest.
Here is a film of mysterious, wind-whipped, ravishing landscapes in the dead of winter, color cinematographed by Ari Kristinsson, that never loses its human focus. “Very strange country,” Atsushi says about Iceland, but, of course, he is the stranger there, and a stranger as well to his own humanity and family identity. He reluctantly sacrificed his annual two-week golf holiday in Hawaii for this excursion only at his grandfather’s urging. When a tire of the used old Citroen he bought collapses in the middle of nowhere, his exasperated stumbling across a rocky expanse of heavy snow crystallizes his tight-assed point of emotional departure.
Atsushi meets all sorts of people along the way, and the sweet decency of many of them, to which he is initially resistant, begins seeping into his soul. Not everyone, though, is decent; a vicious American couple divert his plans, necessitating, perhaps, spiritual intervention if he is to realize his goal. (They steal the car, and Atsushi ends up on foot.) Early on, Atsushi is told there may be ghosts afoot in Iceland; he sees the ghost of a girl himself, and the man who becomes his guide and companion to his destination may be another such ghost. This aspect of the film is lightly, shimmeringly executed.
Cold Fever charms and delights.
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