Don’t get misled by the title. This Belgian movie from 2005, L’Iceberg, may make you want to crawl under the covers with its images of ice boxes, chilly waters, freezers, and yes, icebergs, but it is essentially heart-warming and very funny, albeit in an odd and quirky way. The plot line is quickly told: Fiona, the female protagonist, accidentally spends the night in the freezer room of the fast-food outlet that she manages. When she stumbles home in the morning, more dead than alive, her husband and two children are leaving the house without noticing her. In fact, they hadn’t missed her at all. The experience drives Fiona away from her family and on an obsessive quest for some meaning in her life, symbolized by an iceberg.
If this doesn’t sound like much of a story, it’s not supposed to. Virtually without dialogue, the film strings together vignettes of slapstick comedy, circus art, pantomime, choreographed action, and deadpan adventure reminiscent of Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton. A poetic note is added using clever cinematography on the one hand, and beautiful landscape on the other.
Underneath an apparent simplicity lies a multitude of references to silent movies and burlesque theater, but also to archetypal symbols of human life. One of my favorite scenes was Fiona’s manic struggle to climb on top of the iceberg she had finally reached, by way of a tiny sailing boat aptly called “Le Titanique”. The iceberg was the symbol for the significance of her life and yet, when she’s finally at the top, the iceberg slowly begins to sink. And soon, it’s gone.
Written and directed by Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel, and Bruno Romy, a group of performance artists with a background in theater and pantomime, this unusual and offbeat film is enough motivation to watch out more for Belgian cinema.