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Film / Children of Nature

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Children of Nature (Börn náttúrunnar) is a 1991 film from Iceland directed by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson.

Thorgeir is an elderly man living on a sheep farm. In his late seventies, it seems he can no longer look after his sheep. After shooting his dog, he makes an unannounced visit to Reykjavik and his daughter's apartment. But his daughter and her husband seem that thrilled about Thorgeir living with them, and his granddaughter throws a tantrum when Thorgeir takes some of the pictures down in her room.

So Thorgeir's family dumps him in an old folks' home. It is a pretty unpleasant one, being a glorified prison where the residents are confined to the grounds, limited to how much pocket money they can hold, and chucked into their rooms if they make too much of a fuss. One of the people who makes a lot of fuss is Stella, an old lady who turns out to be an old acquaintance of Thorgeir's; they both grew up in the same village in northern Iceland.

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Stella loathes the home. Thorgeir, who seemed like he was going to resign himself to his fate, instead decides to run away with her. They steal a car parked across the street from the home, and go on what's basically a joyride across Iceland, headed to their hometown. Eventually, things start to get strange.


Tropes:

  • Abandoned Warehouse: The end has Thorgeir wandering around what appears to be an old, clearly long-abandoned military post on the north coast, clearly an American installation from the war.
  • Actor Allusion: Bruno Ganz has a cameo at the end as the angel that apparently welcomes Thorgeir into the afterlife. Ganz famously played an angel in Wings of Desire.
  • All There in the Manual: The nature of Bruno Ganz's cameo at the end is explained by the credits, which list him as "Angel".
  • Bleak Abyss Retirement Home: The old folks' home in Reykjavik. There doesn't appear to be any sign of overt physical abuse, but it is clearly a warehouse where people wait to die, and the nurses are really jailers. The administrator, while claiming that everyone is free in the home, also tells Thorgeir and his daughter that the staff limits how much pocket money the residents can hold. Notably, the secretary that serves them coffee asks the daughter "how does he take it?", rather than asking Thorgeir, who is sitting right there. When Thorgeir first arrives Stella is being forcibly taken back to her room; later we learn that she was caught at the bus station. After she gets a little to vocal when complaining to Thorgeir, she is again forcibly escorted back to her room. The two of them eventually escape in the middle of the night.
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  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: In her one scene, Thorgeir's awful granddaughter Lilja complains about Thorgeir taking her pictures down, and asks why he hung a picture of some "old hag" (it's Thorgeir's late wife). This is what precipitates Thorgeir's family dumping him in the nursing home.
  • The Cameo: Bruno Ganz pops up in the last scene, in a wordless cameo as an angel.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: At Stella's friend's house, a previously silent radio bursts forth with a news story about how Thorgeir and Stella have disappeared and may have stolen a Jeep.
  • December–December Romance: Two inmates of a retirement home in their late seventies fall in love.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: Thorgeir in his first scene in the rustic farmhouse, emphasizing his isolation.
  • Flashback: As Stella walks around an overgrown garden, she has what appear to be Stock Footage memories of life in the rural fishing village long ago. In the next scene Thorgeir finds her dead on the beach.
  • Foreshadowing: The truck driver giving Thorgeir and Stella a lift north talks about how there's nothing up there but abandoned military installations. That's exactly where Thorgeir winds up at the end of the movie, at an abandoned airstrip.
  • Gainax Ending: One which seems to symbolize Thorgeir's death. He walks up a hill to what turns out to be an abandoned World War II airfield. He enters an empty, debris-strewn barracks. There he's greeted by a strange man with a sympathetic face who puts a hand on his shoulder (the credits reveal this person to be an angel). Thorgeir walks out of the barracks, only to see a helicopter pilot who watches Thorgeir as he approaches the landing pad with his helicopter. Thorgeir limps away and sees what looks like a rusty flight of stairs down the cliff. He approaches the stairs, some fog passes by, and when the fog passes again he's disappeared. The End.
  • Hassle-Free Hotwire: Thorgeir touches two wires together and the Jeep starts in classic hassle-free hotwire style.
  • Let the Past Burn: Thorgeir burns old photos before taking leave of the farmhouse, keeping only one framed portrait of his wife.
  • Magical Realism: For about 2/3 of the film it appears to be a perfectly straightforward tale of two old folks stealing a Jeep and joyriding across Iceland. They reach a roadblock, which Thorgeir blows through because he knows the Jeep will come up stolen. The cop jumps in his car and gives chase...and the Jeep simply disappears into thin air. After that, things get stranger. They see a party of people by the beach that basically appears out of nowhere. A strange naked woman on a rock gestures to them; the boat pilot says she's a ghost. The Jeep that they abandoned when it broke down somehow reappears back in Reykjavik where they stole it. And then there's the odd Gainax Ending where Thorgeir disappears into mist.
  • Old Flame: Turns out that Stella and Thorgeir briefly dated when they were teens.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: One of the stranger moments during the Magical Realism final third of the film is when Thorgeir and Stella are being ferried out to the island. They see a totally nude and rather attractive woman standing on a rock, who watches them as they watch her. The pilot of the boat says that she's a ghost. This has nothing to do with the rest of the story.
  • Shoot the Dog: Presumably Thorgeir didn't have anyone to take care of his dog, so he shoots it before he leaves his farm house for good.
  • Silence Is Golden: Minus some singing in the very first shot, there is no dialogue for the first 12 minutes of the movie, as Thorgeir shoots his dog and gets on a bus to Reykjavik. The Gainax Ending as well is totally dialogue-free.
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