Baltasar KormákurIceland103 minutes2016ColourIcelandic
Icelandic auteur Baltasar Kormákur (Contraband, 2 Guns, Everest) directs and stars in this psychological thriller about a father who tries to pull his daughter out of her world of drugs and petty crime, only to find that danger can be found in unexpected places.
Actor-director Baltasar Kormákur, a long-time Festival favourite, returns with one of his most powerful films to date, a domestic thriller that closes in on both its hero and its audience with rigorous, suspenseful precision.
Finnur (Kormákur), a prominent physician, is dealing simultaneously with both the death of his father and the increasingly erratic behaviour of his eldest daughter, Anna (Hera Hilmar). Perplexed, he suspects that Anna's new boyfriend, Óttar (Gísli Örn Garðarsson), may be the cause. A frantic late-night call from Anna convinces Finnur that he must get the creepy Óttar out of his daughter's life for good. But Óttar's hold over her is unshakeable, the authorities prove completely useless, and he turns out to be much more ruthless than Finnur anticipated. Finnur feels increasingly powerless — a position that is both horrifying and heartbreaking.
The Oath offers a profoundly universal tale about a parent's responsibility for — and anxiety over — his adult children. At the same time, the film is uniquely Icelandic, ruminating on both the impact of the country's relatively sudden urbanization (Finnur's father, a sinister and abusive figure, was a rancher who lived alone for much of his life) and its long-standing tradition of dogged independence. Finnur's dilemma, caught up in his quest for personally delivered justice, evokes Icelandic sagas.
With stellar work from Garðarsson, Hilmar (Anna Karenina, Life in a Fishbowl), and the director-star himself, The Oath is a welcome addition to the oeuvre of one of our most consistent and skilful filmmakers, reminding us that Kormákur is equally adept at both genre and thought-provoking drama.