Friday, 19 August 2022

Echo (2019)

This was a new one on me, discovered deep in the bowels of the Mubi catalogue, for which I currently have a subscription. It's a work of 56 vignettes eavesdropping, each one different, on a slice of life in Iceland for a few minutes at a time.

I didn't quite know what to expect from this 75 minute work (original title Bergmál) from Rúnar Rúnarsson but the first thing that struck me about the style was the work of Swedish director Roy Anderson. I have previously shared my thoughts about his works Being a Human Person, About EndlessnessA Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, You, The Living and Songs from the Second Floor. The young Icelandic Rúnarsson has had previous success with Sparrows (2015) and Volcano (2011).

The style to which I refer is the one where the camera in each scene is not moved. For Anderson, this was explained later as a technique to ensure visual continuity when locations were rejected in lieu of studio work alone. For Rúnarsson, I don't know! But the technique is an interesting one (also often used by Woody Allen) where the cast (or anything in the scene) does any of the required moving around, not the camera, and the angle of view is fixed. It works well with short-punchy scenes here.

The content of the 56 scenes are a potpourri of observations homing in on ordinary life with the only common theme being that it's based in Iceland around Christmas one year. Some are sad, some are funny, others poignant, bitter or angry - but each a fly-on-the-wall view of ordinary life. The order of the scenes wouldn't really have mattered as they all stand alone - there is no overall story, beginning or end.

The indoor scenes are colourful whilst the outdoor ones are generally cold and snowy as people go about their business preparing for Christmas, attending events, throwing parties and hurling fireworks. It dips into a reflective view of people having to be at work while others enjoy the season, as we focus on a couple of emergency services telephone operators and also the bin-men going about their duties amongst many others. The content of the numerous scenes and micro-stories is broad-ranging so I won't do a deep-dive here, rather encourage people to watch and enjoy.

The takeaways from the film are going to be different for every viewer - there's something for everyone. Some of the scenes will touch people emotionally, whilst the same scenes will be passed over by others depending on our life experiences. It's beautifully artistic in presentation and very nicely conceived throughout. It's supported by various pieces of music in some of the scenes, others are presented with impactful silence.

I'm not sure if all the people in all the scenes are actors, but many of them certainly come across as not being so - maybe if they are, then a sign of good acting! A very enjoyable short film it was. Something different and interesting with the hook-up to Roy Anderson for me, a big fan, an unexpected bonus. The Mubi service is highly recommended here for different, interesting and more artistic films - which often bypass the main streaming services.

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