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Ciné Sunday: Under The Tree
(Undir trénu)

Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson

Family drama and black comedy mix in a distinctive and freewheeling picture of suburban warfare. Icelandic director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson, whose film Either Way was remade by David Gordon Green as Prince Avalanche, brings a wry sensibility to the lives of two families living in near- identical cube houses.

Accused of adultery by his ex-fiancée, Atli (Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson) is promptly turfed out and forced to move back in with his parents. While he fights for custody of his four-year-old-daughter, he becomes drawn into a bitter dispute between his parents and their neighbours over a tree which straddles their two properties. One side sees it as a beautiful piece of nature; the other, an obstruction to sunbathing. What follows is an acute social drama, involving security cameras, chainsaws and pet abduction – in short a dark comedy alive to the hilarious pettiness of any two sides unwilling to back down.

Under The Tree is a satire which only the Icelandic could make. Sigurðsson brings a human touch to often unlikeable characters, never shying away from the bizarre blend of judgement and kindness which exists in suburban communities. Under The Tree is definitely a unique creation, where awkward observational humour is never far from hand.