“Under the tree” – Hell is other neighbours

This quirky and at times very black Icelandic comedy explores how uneasy relations can deteriorate to a total loss of any sense of proportion and control between suburban neighbours. In this case the contention is over a tree which one couple wants to keep, while the other seeks to have it pruned back sharply if not felled to reduce the excess shade.

The film gradually reveals the underlying psychological tensions which may be causing the characters to behave unreasonably. Has a mother been driven slightly mad by the disappearance and presumed suicide of her favourite son? Does her other son upset his wife to the point of destroying their marriage and losing custody of the daughter he loves because he is also deeply unhappy over the loss of his brother and the sense that his mother wishes he had been the one to die? And so on.

None of the characters is very likeable, apart from the father who takes refuge from problems from going off to sing with his male voice choir. Everyone is flawed, driven to take actions which only compound the problems.

I liked the sense of place, and insights into Icelandic culture.

It is a watchable and entertaining film up to its possibly gratuitously violent and bleak ending.

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