ANGELS OF THE UNIVERSE (Englar alheimsins) directed by Friðrik Þór Friðriksson (Iceland, 2000)

Life for Páil (Ingvar E. Sigurðsson) is fine and dandy at first. He has a nice girlfriend named Dagny and spends his free time painting, drumming and writing poems.

Big colourful post-impressionist canvases at his home signify he’s a young man with a vivid imagination.

When Dagny’s mom discovers the lovers in bed, she seems as perturbed by Páil’s humble background (his dad is a cabbie) as by the fact that he is sneakily screwing her daughter. This results in a sudden end of their fledgling relationship. Dagny says she’s still fond of Páil but stands him up on a date and thereafter his life goes into free fall.

He begins by pacing up and down in a frenzied manner; then things go from bad to worse. He goes to the doctor who diagnoses his migraines as “a headache of the heart” for which there is no medical cure. Páil complains of the invisible, unbreachable wall between him and the real world.

All this could be happening anywhere in the world until one character suggests that schizophrenia is a condition of the Icelandic character – the emotional equivalent of trying to balance fire and ice. Apart from this, there is no real context for Páil’s descent into madness which meant that I couldn’t muster much sympathy for his plight.

His parents can’t cope with his aggressive mood swings and he becomes an inmate of Kleppur mental institute. Medication dulls his brain but cannot calm the torment in his soul. Fellow inmates include a Hitler apologist and a songwriter who claims to have written all the Beatles songs.

There are some lighter moments but mostly the story (based on Einar Már Guðmundsson‘s novel)  is fairly bleak with no hopeful denouement. You can take solace only from the fact that music from Sigur Rós plays over the final scene and closing credits.