Even before you start watching this unknown little gem of a film you know it's going to be bizarre. Directors and stars Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy use sparse dialogue, deadpan humour, quirky characters and Tati-esque gags to create an original and charming experience. Totally different from comedies coming from Hollywood today, to sum up just a generally fun film.
Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, and Bruno Romy collectively wrote the script for and directed "L'Iceberg" (simply meaning "The Iceberg" in English). The three have a history in both theater and the circus, and meant on a theater tour in the 90's. This is the first feature film by the three artists, and they claim to have shared all the efforts of writing and directing equally. They say that the aim for a "physical comedy", and their influences are credited as the eccentric actor/directors of the silent era. Certainly the oddball humor and long sequences with a stagnant camera will remind anyone of a film with someone like Charlie Chaplin, but this is a modern and very quirky take on the genre.
Co-writer/director Fiona Gordon plays Fiona, a fast-food restaurant manager. One night, after work, she walks into the walk-in freezer when her scarf catches on the handle and the door slams shut. Thus begins the physical comedy - she tears and stretches the scarf to the other side of the freezer, and eventually is discovered in the morning shroud in bags and sitting in a cardboard box. The next morning she comes home and greets her husband, Julien (Dominique Abel), and her two sons who didn't even realize she was gone. Fiona is frustrated and unsatisfied with the home life, and begins dreaming of an iceberg. She lays in bed and contorts her sheets to resemble towering icebergs, and comes to admire the freezer.
Finally, Fiona decides to get out of the house and head off to find an iceberg. Eventually, she finds her way to a sailor, René (Philippe Martz), who has a boat dubbed "Le Titanique". Fiona catches a ride aboard the boat of René, who she comes to discover is both deaf and a mute, and they set sail to an iceberg. Meanwhile, however, Julien does begin to worry and actually take notice of his wife's absence. He follows Fiona and the sailor out to sea and tries to win her heart, although Fiona seems more infatuated with the sailor himself.
The charm of this film is in it's low budget goodness. Take, for instance, the scenes at sea. Many of the times, it's clearly obvious to the viewer that they're looking at a boat in the middle of some studio with a projection of the sea behind them. This is amplified when buckets of water are tossed onto the boat to resemble the waves. None of it looks at all convincing, and that's what makes it so cute... in a way, I was reminded of the works of Michel Gondry. While Gondry certainly has a lot more to work with financially, the team behind "L'Iceberg" shares very similar visions and imagination.
The film seems rather pointless and just a collection of sketches, but at it's heart it's a film about seemingly unconquerable obstacles and reaching your dreams. The entire film, Fiona is clawing and scratching to get at the iceberg, while Julien desperately tries to win her back. At the end of the film, when the iceberg melts after she's reached it, we see that she's content and now accepting of her husband who she's been in a loveless marriage with. It's a very cute film that tells you that there's no mountain (or iceberg) too high.
The problem with "L'Iceberg" is that it's charm wears out about an hour into the film. I was highly amused with a lot of the comedy and thought it was a really refreshing watch, but after awhile I felt as though I was watching the same things over and over. It's irresistibly cute and certainly a film I really enjoyed, but even at a short 84 minutes it does begin to wear out it's welcome.
A Belgian film in French that aspires to be a Charlie Chaplin film is not something your typical American audience is going to go out to see. However, if you're in the mood for something extremely different, this may be an enjoyable viewing for you. At times it's more strange than entertaining, but I found it to be worthwhile.