Carrots [Bergur Árnason, Iceland, 2019]
Carrots encapsulates a feeling that is felt by a select few all over the country during every season of Love Island (UK, 2015 -). Bergur Árnason’s surrealist Icelandic short documents a man’s struggle against society’s all encompassing addiction to carrots. Everyone is talking about them. Everyone is eating them. Everyone, that is, except him.
This film is a highly amusing, highly effective look at feelings of loneliness and isolation. Árnason’s off-beat combo of dry humour and pure lunacy works wonderfully to tell the story of rebellion, peer pressure and root vegetables.
Sigurður Traustason’s deadpan embodiment of the downtrodden protagonist is integral to the film’s success. What he really triumphs at is not necessarily comic timing, but tuning into the subtle humour of the situation. His awkward encounters and loathing of the status quo could be compared to similarly surreal characters from literary history, such as Dostoevsky’s underground man and particularly Kafka’s unfortunate Joseph K.
As well as casting, Árnason clearly has an eye for detail. Small comic hints can be found throughout the film, that exacerbate the inescapable obsession with carrots. After being harangued by a carrot-wielding colleague, the man escapes to a park to find an orange bench. Returning from an (orange) drink with his soon to be ex-girlfriend, he walks amongst bright orange handles to find a seat on the bus. These carefully placed touches are not to be underestimated, and make what is already a cleverly devised film even more sophisticated.
Although it is already bonkers to begin with, the plot soon slips the bonds of simple comprehension. Half reality, half television show, it is hard to work out was has happened to our carrot hating hero. This is not necessarily a criticism: the film is evidently not aiming to merely go from A to B, and the obscurity of the story means that it lingers for a long time in the mind.
Whatever conclusion you come to about the final scenes, what is certain is that Carrots is a humorous, thought provoking and, above all, well crafted examination of an individual’s tormented existence on the fringes of society.
'Carrots' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2019.