This family reunion from the ninth circle of hell is centered in a small fishing village on the coast of Iceland, where Thžrdur (Gunnar Eyjžlfsson) gathers his children to make an important announcement. The time has come to set family affairs in order. The town fishery, which Thžrdur inherited from his first wife, is seeing rough times. Thžrdur could sell it, but that would put several hundred people out of work, and he stubbornly refuses to abandon them, though his oldest son, Haraldur (Sigurdur Skúlason), who has been managing the business, desperately wants to sell out to a big corporation.

Thžrdur's other two children include a monumentally shrewish daughter, Ragnheidur (Gudrún S. G"sladžttir), and a sensitive composer of love ballads, son Ágúst (Hilmir Snaer Gudnason). Ágúst lives with a beautiful musician, Fran‡oise (Hl'ne de Fougerolles), whose blas attitude in the midst of this family's sturm und drang may be the only false note in Baltasar Kormákur and Ólafur Haukur S"monarson's sometimes brutal, sometimes hilarious script for The Sea.

Any notion of Scandinavian reticence is quickly shattered by a cast of neurotic characters who seem to be more passionate than Latin lovers in the middle of an orgy. Like the sea, moments of tranquility suddenly turn into storms. With a family as tormented and intense as this, everyone, including the town cop, has a passion to tear.

What is perhaps most remarkable about the country of Iceland is not how much of a backwater it is, but, on the contrary, how very similar the lives of its inhabitants are to our own. This film could easily have been set in Maine. Little by little, the veneer of respectability is peeled off every character--even the ones who appear to be spotless--until only one sad conclusion can be accepted: The world is going to Hades in a fishnet.

Kormákur has not only collaborated on an exciting and fast-paced script, but directed with unerring talent. Though there are ugly events galore, there is not an ugly frame in this entire masterpiece of a soap opera by the sea

--Bruce Feld