The shade from a front-yard tree brings the already simmering tensions between two families in an Icelandic suburb to boiling point, in this hilariously absurd and psychologically astute comedy from director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson.


Contemporary World Cinema

Under the Tree

Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson

In Under the Tree, possibly the best comedy from Iceland since Eleven Men Out, Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson examines the simmering frictions between two neighbouring families in a sleepy suburb.

Grieving Inga and put-upon husband Baldvin are the proud owners of the area's only tree. Next door, amateur marksman Konrad lives with his new, much younger wife, the athletic Eybjorg — whose mere appearance incites torrents of expletives from Inga. Worse, it's a pleasant summer, and the only thing more coveted than trees in Iceland is sunlight. Eybjorg is infuriated by the way the overhanging branches of Inga's beloved tree block the sunshine. The sudden return of Inga's son, Atli, tossed from his apartment after his wife found him enthusiastically interfacing with salacious material on his laptop, only complicates the situation.

In films like Either Way (remade in the US by David Gordon Green) Sigurðsson skillfully explored the foibles of Icelandic life, slacker division. But with Under the Tree he delivers his most caustic, comprehensive look at contemporary culture, taking on everything from lost traditions (Atli removes his daughter from school for a quasi-nostalgic camping trip, but time only permits an excursion to the lawn outside the IKEA) to housing co-ops.

Absurdly hilarious and psychologically astute, Under the Tree probes the way proximity heightens resentment and malice, suggesting a fusion between Norman McLaren's Neighbours, the sociological observations of Life in a Fishbowl, and the deadpan humour and insight of Rams.



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