Picture this: an obese man in his mid-forties lives with his mother in a small Icelandic mountain community. He eats cereal every morning for breakfast, works a minimum wage day job and spends his free time painting little Warhammer-style figurines; a game he regularly plays with a single friend from across the hall. His experience with the opposite sex appears to be minimal (hinted at not only by his somewhat isolated lifestyle but also the film’s title). This is the character around whom Dagur Kari’s Virgin Mountain revolves, though surprisingly the movie itself isn’t half as depressing as that all sounds.
This ‘virgin mountain’ man, Fusi, begins as a good-natured, likeable character, and his endearment to the audience only grows as the film goes on. Upon being offered some dance classes as a tongue-in-cheek birthday gift, Fusi decides to (rather comically) give it a shot and in the process meets a woman with whom he forms a close bond, helping her through a period of depression over the course of the story. At the same time he falls into an unlikely friendship with one of his neighbours; a young girl who finds his lifestyle habits fascinating.
These interactions are a pleasure to watch as they play out, especially in the refreshingly honest and convention-breaking way the film portrays its characters and their relationships. Your leading man goes against all expectations of what a leading film actor should be or look like. The connection he develops with a woman during the course of the movie is not primarily romantic, nor is it based on appearance at all. His lifestyle is unapologetically sad and direction-less; though his journey throughout the film does go some way to correcting this, and by its end, if he hasn’t found ‘happiness’ per se, he has at least found more confidence and contentment. A heart-warming and strangely inspiring movie.
8 / 10