Someone ought to come out with a Fiona Gordon doll. It would have to be fashioned out of some sort of rubbery substance, with a thin, elongated torso and long, skinny arms and legs that move every which way with no apparent effort. Also, just like its human prototype, this doll must have a very long face that is almost expressionless-except for the eyes, which are big and round and always wide open.
The real Fiona Gordon--who exactly fits the description above--plays a pratfall-prone character named Fiona in L'Iceberg, a cartoon-like movie from Belgium that tells its highly entertaining and surprisingly touching story almost exclusively through physical comedy. There is some dialogue, but it is used sparingly. In fact, almost everything about this strange but wondrous movie is spare--notably the plot, the art direction, and the direction itself.
Fiona (the character) lives in a cookie-cutter house in a cookie-cutter Belgian town, with her husband Julien (Dominique Abel, Gordon's partner and co-writer, co-director and co-producer) and their two children, and she walks to work every day to a commercial establishment that's simply called "Fast Food." One day, after her co-workers have gone home, Fiona accidentally locks herself in the store's walk-in freezer. She manages to survive the night--after her thrashings around have totally trashed the contents of the freezer--but the experience leaves her traumatized. What's worse, though, Fiona discovers that her family did not once notice her absence! In fact, her hubby cluelessly drives their kids off to school the next morning just as Fiona struggles up the sidewalk after her frigid all-night ordeal.
Julien and the kids cannot understand why Fiona begins to act so oddly. Of course, she's also baffled by the yearnings that now possess her. Apparently in the grips of a mid-life crisis, Fiona develops a "thing" for ice--or for anything that reminds her of ice, such as icebergs and polar bears. When a freezer-equipped delivery truck comes along, Fiona impulsively climbs into it and sets off on an adventure to find more ice--and to find herself, of course. Landing in a seaside village somewhere on the bleak shores of the North Atlantic, she meets an odd assortment of people, including Rene the sailor (Philippe Martz), a strapping, longhaired deaf-mute who lives on a sailboat which he has named Le Titanique. Rene and his boat turn out to be the answer to Fiona's ice-dreams.
Oh, the trials at sea that Fiona and Rene and Julien (always wearing a neat white shirt and tie) are fated to encounter! Oh, the pretzel-like contortions that Fiona gets herself into! One inspired sequence shows her in a pas de deux with a bedsheet. While totally covered by this huge white sheet, Fiona seems to morph into a many-limbed creature-perhaps human, perhaps not--who stands on the bed and twirls around with the speed of an active egg-beater, flailing this way and that until--voila!--some cantilevered pose is struck. Suddenly there's more thrashing and twirling, and yet another wacky pose. It's the best bit of silent onscreen slapstick since Mr. Hulot went out to play tennis.
Gordon and Abel and their writing/directing/acting partner Bruno Romy come from a background in theatre and the circus, and they have worked together on a number of projects for video, theatre and short films. If these three are encouraged by the reception to L'Iceberg, which is their first feature-length film, and if Fiona Gordon's limbs stay limber enough, perhaps we'll see more of the this talented female whirligig and her equally wry and gifted fellow performers.