UNDER THE TREE (UNDIR TRÉNU)
In UNDER THE TREE a straightforward story about how people interact with each other, rapidly morphs into a work of Nordic Noir that defies easy categorization.
Is this a black comedy with dry Icelandic humor? A satire on universal family dynamics? A drama of marital discord? An absurdist revenge thriller with unexpected, escalating responses? Yes, it is all these things, which serves to invest the audience in ordinary, relatable characters behaving badly, while wondering what comes next.
The film is built on situations we can all identify – a dramatic marital conflict and a seemingly minor conflict between neighbors. Led by strong female characters, the stories quickly intersect and director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson skillfully interweaves the threads – serious issues about fidelity, divorce, child custody and forgiveness, offset by the comedic aspects of a feud between neighbors over a majestic shade tree. Throughout, Sigurdsson mixes multiple misunderstandings and layered realizations, craftily manipulating audience expectations.
Rich in metaphor, elements of grief and revenge play out into something more thoughtful and substantial than mere comedy, thanks to great writing and excellent performances, particularly Edda Bjorgvinsdottir as the caustic Inga, perpetually mourning the loss of a favorite son. Moods are colored by artistic cinematography and a score including Bach, Rachmaninoff and the mournful strains of an all-male Icelandic choir. You'll be thinking about UNDER THE TREE long after the lights go up.
⇝ Check out this brief NYT review and synopsis.
☀ UNDER THE TREE, Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson, Iceland, 2017, 89 minutes, Rated "R".
☀ DATES & TIMES:
Saturday, December 1, 2018, 4 PM
(double feature Saturday with THE GUILTY)
Tuesday December 4, 2018, 7 PM
Venue opens Saturday at 3:00, seating at 3:30; Tuesday at 6:00; seating at 6:30.
Late arrivals will be seated at management discretion.
the newly renovated GARFIELD THEATRE, 719 Race St, Cincinnati 45202. – Learn more
☀ TICKETS: Online or call (859) 957-3456.
Single Screening, UNDER THE TREE:
Adult general admission, $10 advance, $15 door.
Student/ArtsPass general admission, $8 advance, $12 door.
Saturday Double Feature, UNDER THE TREE + THE GUILTY:
Adult general admission, $16 advance, $20 door.
Student/ArtsPass general admission, $12 advance, $16 door.
Student and ArtsPass ticket holders must show valid ID upon arrival.
Advance sales cut off four hours before show time; thereafter tickets will be available at the door.
☀ PARKING & DIRECTIONS:
Parking Options Google Map Drone View
Ample parking at affordable rates — 1,700+ garage spaces within two blocks ‐ Gramercy Garage (next door, enter via Race, 7th or Elm streets), Garfield Garage (9th St., next to the Phoenix) and Macy's Garage (7th Street). Another 363 surface lot spaces within a couple blocks, plus numerous on-street meters. Other transport options include the Street Car, Metro, Tank, Uber, Red Bike, etc.
☀ ADA ACCESS: We have completely revamped and improved ADA access, with a direct path to wheelchair spaces and companion seats (no outside transit, no ramps, no stairs). Individuals using walkers or wheelchairs should call ahead to let us know your screening date and time, (859) 957-3456.
☀ DINING & LIBATIONS:
Across the street from the Garfield, you'll find the Butcher & Barrel, home of delicious shareables, salads, entrees and desserts, plus excellent wine, craft beer and mixed drinks. CWC patrons will receive a 15% discount on their order, excluding beverages.
Enjoy a pre- or post-film meal or coffee and dessert, or hang at the bar. You'll need your online ticket purchase confirmation or ticket stub from the event – discount valid only for the date of attendance at the Garfield.
Hours: TUE-THS - Dining, 5-10 pm; bar 3:30 - midnight. FRI-SAT - Dining 5-11 pm; bar 3:30 - 2:30. SUN - Dining 5-9 pm; bar 3:30 - 1-pm. Advance reservations recommended – (513) 954-8974. Check out the menus and photos: thebutcherbarrel.com.
☀ QUESTIONS? Please or call (859) 957 3456.
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INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR – HAFSTEINN GUNNAR SIGURÐSSON
Where did the idea for the film originate, and was it based on any true incidents?
Co-writer Huldar Breiðfjörð and I started talking about this idea around a decade ago. We both were fascinated by the idea of making a film about neighborly disputes. What excited me originally about the idea is that such conflicts can be absurdly funny since they very often revolve around minor issues, but then very often get blown out of all proportion. They can sometimes become very fierce, violent conflicts, in which normal, respectable people lose their dignity and self-control. Stories of neighbors fighting over trees are actually quite well known in Iceland so, and in fact, the story was in some sense inspired by a real-life incident, although the script then developed into something completely fictional. What's also important to know is that trees are not all that common in Iceland, so if you have an old and beautiful tree standing in your garden, you're very unlikely to ever want to let go of it. But on the other hand, if a tree in the next garden is preventing any sun from shining into your garden, you are going to want to get rid of that tree. Especially since we don't get that much sunshine in Iceland. It's the kind of head to head dilemma that unfortunately is hard to solve in a diplomatic way.
Was there something about the everyday nature of the conflict that attracted you?
I have always been drawn to the mundane in my films and yes, I do feel it's a great source for cinematic material. Mainly because our lives are most of the time made up of the mundane, this is what we know best and I believe this is one of the elements that connects our human existence. I found it a great challenge to make a thriller-esque drama about something as innocent as a beautiful tree. To make a war film where home is the battlefield.
How did you work to make sure all of the characters were convincing individually and as an ensemble?
I guess you're always working with pre-existing qualities in other people, including yourself, when building your characters. For me a lot happens when the work with the actors begins, that's really when the characters that populate the film become tangible for me. The actorsof course bring a lot to the table, and sometimes we use people we mutually know as a reference. Although that said I wouldn't say that the actors are imitating real people, or anything like that. Maybe they do? They just don't tell me.
I definitely find it really important to be specific in the characterization, to make all the key players in the story distinctive in a way that makes it possible for the audience to recognize and understand them, whether they agree or disagree with the actions of these people. I enjoy working together with the actors on that very much, really building the characters. I like to rehearse quite a lot before shooting. I've always tried to spend a few days before principal photography begins, rehearsing with the actors at the locations. This process has turned out to be very fruitful for everybody and usually the DOP is present for these rehearsals as well. The actors often tell me how valuable they find this process, to be able to spend time and discover the locations on their own, in character, but without the stress and chaos that tends to take over the location once the whole crew is in there.
Were there any films that provided visual inspiration for Under the Tree?
There are always other films and filmmakers who influence your creative process but the trick is to hide them so they don't become obvious. I hope I managed to do so on this one. There were some films I discussed with the film's DOP Monika Lenczewska, which included works by Michael Haneke, Joachim Trier, Ruben Östlund, David Lynch, Lynne Ramsay, Derek Cianfrance to name a few. As you can see from that list, it was a lot of very different filmmakers and the influence on our film wasn't a direct one. What we did was use their work to find a common ground in our conversation as we defined our vision for the script.
Music also plays a key part in defining the increasingly dark tone...
I always knew that I wanted to approach part of the story as a thriller. It may not be that obvious when you read the script, so using music along with cinematography was a very important tool to create that feeling of unease and suspense. Especially since the narrative does take some unexpected turns in the latter half (which I don't want to spoil), the score turned out to be an essential and effective way to prepare this shift. Composer Daniel Bjarnason and I are longtime friends and we had been looking for a project to do together. That project finally came with Under the Tree as I figured Daniel would be the perfect match for this script. What I told him in the beginning was that I didn't want a conventional score where the music is only there to support the image. I told him that I wanted the music to be a force of its own, a statement in a way. And he really nailed it.
Do you see the film as a cautionary tale for our time, about what can happen when coexistence and compromise start to fail?
There are some terrible things in the air these days and I think we've reached the point where it's seriously threatening our existence on this planet. If we look at the biggest narrative of our times, climate change, it's exactly about that. The whole world has to come together and let go of a certain way of living but it seems that we just can't. We all have the same objective, and really we all have to compromise in one way or another and be considerate of each other – and if we don't, we are risking the future of our children. But still we can't do it. How fucked up is that? It's this terrible individualistic way of thinking and living, which is indeed encouraged by our capitalistic society.
What happened during the development of this script is that I tried to open up the narrative, making it receptive to different interpretations of those ideas. By the end it turns into sort of a fable where the larger metaphor is living in a community, in peace with other humans. In that sense you can also read this story as one about two different, conflicting nations, ethnic or religious groups – I think those stories share some things in common with the issues we can have with our neighbors.
CAST & FILMMAKER BIOS
Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson – Atli
Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson (aka Steindi Jr.) was born in 1984. He is one of the most popular comedians of the younger generation in Iceland and has been incredibly successful on Icelandic TV. He has also appeared in a number of feature films and currently he is the host of the most popular comedy show on Icelandic radio. Under the Tree is his debut in a leading role in a feature film.
Edda Björgvinsdóttir – Inga
Edda Björgvinsdóttir was born in 1952. She graduated from The Drama Academy of Iceland with distinction in 1978. In the 1980s Edda became a household name, renowned for her comedic talent. Currently, Edda divides her time between being an actress, comedian, writer, director and a motivational speaker. In Icelandic cinema, she is best known for playing the titular role of the 1986 comedy classic Stella í Orlofi (Stella on Holiday).
Sigurður Sigurjónsson – Baldvin
Sigurður Sigurjónsson was born in 1955. He graduated from The Drama Academy of Iceland 1976. He is one of the most loved actors of his generation, a legend in Icelandic comedy, a director and a screenwriter. He has starred in numerous films and television series since the late 1970s, as well as being a regular at the National Theater of Iceland, as an actor and a director. Internationally, Sigurður, is most famous for the lead role in the film Hrútar (Rams).
Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir – Agnes
Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir was born in 1983. She graduated from The Drama Academy of Iceland 2010. Since her graduation she has appeared in numerous roles in both the National Theatre of Iceland and the Reykjavik City Theatre. Lára has made a number of films in Iceland as well as appearing on the original Netflix TV series Sense 8.
Þorsteinn Bachmann – Konrad
Þorsteinn Bachmann was born in 1965. He graduated from the Drama Academy of Iceland in 1991. Þorsteinn has an extensive career in theatre, both as an actor and a director, but in later years he has become one of the country's finest film actors. He is also a very experienced acting coach and was the president of Akureyri Theatre Company. He is known for his role as Móri in Vonarstræti (Life in a Fishbowl) and in 2015 he won an Edda Award (Icelandic Academy Award) for that same role.
Selma Björnsdóttir – Eybjorg
Selma Björnsdóttir was born in 1974. She is an actress, singer, choreographer and a theatre director, best known internationally for representing her country in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1999 (where she came in second). Selma has worked on numerous productions as a choreographer, assistant director, director as well as working extensively in television.
Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson – Director
Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson was born in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1978. He is a graduate of the prestigious film program at Columbia University, New York. His first feature film Á annan veg (Either Way) screened at film festivals all around the world and was re-made in the US as Prince Avalanche (starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch). Hafsteinn was selected as one of "Variety's Ten European Directors to Watch" in 2012.
F I L M O G R A P H Y
Paris of the North, 2014, Feature
Either Way, 2011, Feature
Skröltormar, 2007, Short
Monika Lenczewska – Director of Photography
Monika Lenczewska graduated with a Masters Degree from the Department of Film and Televison from the University of Silesia in Poland and completed an MFA in Cinematography at the American Film Institute. She is a member of the International Cinematographers Guild and Polish Society of Cinematographers. Monika's work has been selected in numerous film festivals including Sundance (nomination for best cinematography in 2014 for Difret), Cannes, Tribeca, Rotterdam and Camerimage. Her work experience includes feature films, shorts, and commercials.
F E A T U R E S
Message from the King, dir. Fabric du Welz, 2016 (completed)
Park, dir. Sofia Exarchou, 2016 (completed)
Obce Niebo, dir. Dariusz Gajewski, 2015
Difret, dir. Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, 2015
Imperial Dreams, dir. Malik Vitthal, 2014
B For Boy, dir. Chika Anadu, 2013