Virgin Mountain (2015)

92% – Critics
84% – Audience

Virgin Mountain Storyline

Fusi, a 43 year old man, still lives with his mother. His daily life is characterized by monotonous routine. The appearance of vibrant Sjöfn and young neighbour Hera will upset his old bachelor habits.

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Virgin Mountain Movie Reviews

A Virgin Nature of a Giant Soul

Glaciers of Iceland melt with warmth of Icelandic cinema. Virgin Mountain is distant but full of love, steady like a paint of cold colors but earnest and sincere same as Fusi who is naming movie. Embracing Fusi is a complicated state for audiences. It is so easy to love and to be one with him but he reminds us people who are same as him around us and who are ignored by us. It gives an amount of heartache scaled with moral compass of every individual viewer. Besides it, the empathy we feel for him gives us a hope to be better person.

Fusi may be the most naive man in the world. He has not evil inside and everything is so simple for him even sometimes he can’t see the consequences of his actions. He doesn’t get mad against people who are unfair to him, he even doesn’t know what revenge is. Everything he knows is helping other and acting for the common good. But beyond of his fragile look, he keeps a solid persona as same as his size. He is like a virgin nature which welcomes the torrid heat of sun and the fruitful spaciousness of rain with same excitement. After all a smile on his face is a relief in our souls.

Virgin Mountain promises a good time for watching even though relatively dark and slow shootings. Good balance with dram and comedy keep viewer’s eyes open and modest acting of Gunnar Jónsson makes movie reliable and striker. This festival movie reflects the real soul of Icelandic cinema in a very successful way.

On Solitude and Defiance

It was fitting that on watching this film, I was almost alone in the cinema, because isolation and solitude are powerful themes throughout Fúsi. So when you’re out by yourself, in the middle of the day, to watch an obscure Icelandic movie showing at an archaic cinema that now uses a projector rather suited for private use, than public screenings, it all kind of falls into place and reinforces the emotional investment in the whole experience.

Fúsi, a 43 year old man-child, but without the usual derogatory connotations of the term, is a tinkerer who lives with his mother, reenacts WW2 battles with his neighbour and works at a hapless job, where he is constantly bullied. Yet, what looks like a bleak and joyless existence, washes over Fúsi like a warm shower on a winter’s day. His outlook on life is inhabited by a neutral positivity informed mostly through how naive and passive Fúsi seems most of the time. And all this is tested once he meets a woman who appears to take an interest in him, enabling him to be the nurturer he is at heart.

This story really hit a nerve, as I’m sure it has for many people who have ever felt alone, or love-stricken or stranded. It is a vicious portrayal of the world, which is only redeeming because Fúsi is the kind of character that takes it all in his stride. Otherwise, it gently treads the line of tragedy, but never crosses it. And surely, Fúsi is an idealized altruist with autistic tendencies, but he’s still someone you can identify with, because you recognize the gestures, the emotions and the triggers within and around him.

However, the film does tend to be stereotypically simplistic in its bleakness. Whether it is the abuse Fúsi faces, his run in with the law, the relationship with his mother, these occasionally serve nothing more than to amplify traits in the character, respectively “the world”, which are all too apparent to begin with. Not to mention that his romantic conception of what is acceptable really pushes the suspension of disbelief to places it should never be pushed. Yet, it is in the romance that the film manages to stay true to itself and believable, hyperbolic gestures aside. Because, hey, we’ve all been there and sometimes it does play out in your mind the way it all unfolds here. Or thereabouts.

So there it is, an Icelandic experience of philosophical proportions, that is quite certain to leave you ruminating at its conclusion. And empathizing, which is always a good muscle to engage.

Virgin Mountain warms, melts and crushes your heart.

Dagur Kári is one of the most talented Icelandic directors of the century. His gorgeous and tragic 2003 debut feature Noi the Albino is one of my favourite films, not just of its year or the last decade but all-time. He followed it up two years later with the very good but not quite as memorable Dark Horse, shot mostly in stark black and white. His first English-language film featured a L.I.E. reunion pairing Paul Dano and Brian Cox in The Good Heart in 2009, but unfortunately to tepid reviews. Back behind the lens and in Iceland, he returns to the roots of Noi, another titular film (the original title is Fúsi) about an outcast maturing onto the next step of his life. Trading a rebellious troubled teen for a 43 year old overweight man yet to move out of his mother’s house, Virgin Mountain mostly conjures the same magic as it brings back a similar style of filmmaking. Coming home one day to find his mother having sex on the counter just adds insult to Fúsi’s injury of his arrested development. In his forties and still a virgin, he’s nestled deep in his routines, rarely drinking anything stronger than milk and still buying toys. At first the film feels like a cautionary tale on the other end of the scale of Noi, where that film is about someone too defiant, and this is about someone too closed off from the world. Virgin Mountain isn’t interested in stopping there, however, pushing Fúsi further. He’s an airport luggage handler who’s never stepped foot out of Iceland nor taken a day off and faces bullying from his co- workers everyday, even when it appears that they’re trying to help. He’s not friendless however, as he has a friend who plays model WW2 scenarios with him, as well as a young neighbourhood girl who bonds with Fúsi out of their mutual loneliness. In order to remove him from his comfort zone, his mother’s boyfriend gifts him line dancing lessons as a present, initially as a joke. He almost attends but chooses to sit it out in the car park. Upon hitting a blizzard, the film introduces an irresistible meet-cute where he gives a lift to another loner, Sjöfn, who in turn gives him a chance like nobody else does. It sparks an invaluable friendship which both opens Fúsi’s heart and willingness to grow. However, the more he learns about her, the more it begins to test their hope. As it’s revealed she suffers from depression, and ostensibly bipolar disorder from her ups and downs, he offers wonderful acts of kindness as he cares for her even though she pushes away and he perhaps oversteps his bounds. His understanding of her mental condition is the soul of Virgin Mountain, and it’s a contagious sentiment. While an established archetype, we rarely often get overweight introverts leading films, and Gunnar Jónsson as Fúsi delivers it with such endearing sensitivity. Fúsi’s few mistakes that get him into trouble are heartbreaking to endure as he’s otherwise such an empathetic character. Kári’s exquisitely written script has a keen sense of repetition to keep the film thriving on its limitations. As we revisit restaurants, Fúsi’s car, the line dancing class, and Sjöfn’s driveway, Kári creates a delicate shorthand to give emotional punches right away with subtle changes. Even when it hits story goals, it does it in an understated way that gives way to bigger character ambitions. I wish it didn’t resort to certain clichés at times – most specifically the bullying – but it knows how to handle them with sincerity. Like Noi, it’s photographed with a set of beautifully vibrant yet muted colours, though its composition isn’t quite as controlled as the 2003 film, allowed to be a lot looser. The same goes for the somber soundtrack provided by Kári’s band Slowblow, who also did the work for Noi. This might not be the most flattering love story, but it’s human, and the hope extends beyond instant gratification. Virgin Mountain is lightweight, but deeply bittersweet and personal in every corner. This is the type of film America doesn’t allow itself anymore. 8/10