Cold Fever

(Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Iceland/USA, 1995)


If Jim Jarmusch had not made Dead Man (1995), and if Aki Kaurismäki had not made I Hired a Contract Killer (1990), I could never have forgiven them for collectively creating a modern genre: the shambling, droll road movie replete with multi-cultural misunderstandings, vacantly cool characters and suspended story-lines.

Fridrik Thor Fridriksson’s Cold Fever is a very minor exercise in this genre. It traces the lazy path of Hirata (Masatoshi Nagase) across the frozen landscape of Iceland. He has reluctantly embarked on this journey in order to offer a memorial for his parents – but, as always in this kind of road movie, it is the unexpected detours that really matter.

Not many of these detours are especially interesting. Curious characters (such a woman obsessed with funerals) drift in and just as quickly drift out of the film. Two strident American tourists (Lili Taylor and Fisher Stevens) add a listless scene of violence and mayhem.

Throughout it all, Hirata remains numb and impassive – so much so that the film’s attempt to incorporate aspects of mysticism and spiritual redemption are well and truly sabotaged.

Although very little jumps out of Cold Fever, it has an endearingly dotty sense of low-level humour, and is always good to look at.

© Adrian Martin August 1996

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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