Beautiful Beings (2022)

Beautiful Beings (2022)

Movie Details

Movie-Beautiful Beings (2022)
Director: Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson
Cast: Birgir Dagur Bjarkason, Áskell Einar Pálmason, and Viktor Benóný Benediktsson
Movie Type: Drama/Coming-of-age story
Release date: 22 April 2022
IMDB Rating: 7.4/10
Languages: English, German, Galego, Icelandic.
Duration: 2h 03m


Beautiful Beings (2022)


One of the most sensitive pictures of this year’s Karlovy Vary offer could easily remain under the radar of most viewers, but fortunately, it is now also in mainstream cinemas. This is the second film by the Icelandic director Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson, and the Czech Republic also partially participated in the international co-production. Guðmundsson’s 2016 debut HeartStone already worked as a gentle yet gritty coming-of-age drama, and these themes are further developed in Beautiful Beings.

At first, we follow the inaccessible teenager Balli, who could perhaps grow up to be a fairly normal young man at some other time. However, Guðmundsson used his memories of a turbulent upbringing in the poor suburbs of  Reykjavík, and placed his heroes in this inhospitable environment. Or rather anti-heroes? The impenetrable Balli is quite surprisingly taken to a party by a trio of teenagers who commit petty crimes and bullying mainly so that she is not a victim of the stronger ones. The eccentric Siggi and the dominant brawler Konni are complemented by the thoughtful Addi, whose perspective is finally given the most space.

He is the only one who has at least a theoretical hope of getting out of social misery. The boys grow up in broken families, they certainly don’t hide from street violence at home, and there are a minimum of socially friendly reference points. First of all, fathers are either a threat or completely absent – with which mothers have to cope as best (or rather as least badly) they can. Guðmundsson teeters on the brink of the misery of porn, but he maintains a sensitivity and an effort to understand his characters, which is evident even in situations where the boys commit evil.

The atmosphere of the social drama is interrupted by occasional dream visions, which Addi may have inherited from his clairvoyant mother, and which warn him of impending danger. This magical-realistic line is not only a significant stylistic step from the rest of the film but also presents an important idea – namely that a functional family background, in which there is at least occasional space for love and support, can offer a person an imaginary handbrake in situations when things are out of control. Although the director talks in the press materials about the fact that this is a deeply rooted part of Icelandic culture, in this case, they have premonitions and other, psychological overtones.

The coming-of-age story about the importance (and at the same time the complexity) of peer relationships during adolescence is not only compellingly sold by a quartet of great young actors but also by a very poetic cinematography. It eschews Iceland’s trademark unspoiled landscape, instead offering a bleak suburb where every trip from school can turn into a struggle for survival. However, Guðmundsson together with Sturla Brandth Grøvlen portrays the boy sympathetically and believably. And it is precisely in this balance that the film’s greatest strength lies.

So a co-produced Icelandic film offers an answer to the age-old question “Why are people so mean to each other” definitely better than a Post for you. The lack of love in young people manifests itself in increased aggression, manifested by raw fights and a painful effort to impress those around them. However, of course, violence only breeds more violence, and it is difficult to break out of the vicious cycle. Even the parents of the central quartet did not experience a pleasant childhood, and so the natural desire for control over one’s own life, unfortunately, manifests itself in the suffering of the weaker ones.

In the end, Guðmundsson offers a glimmer of hope, but there is no question of a happy ending – this is the lived reality of many teenagers, not a soothing narrative about reformed sinners. This is also why bitterness prevails in the closing credits and the viewer’s uncertainty as to whether it will ever be possible to eradicate these burning problems from society.

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