A murdered piano. A bucket of blood. A teenager named Noi (Tomas Lemarquis) who lives with a shrug. Seventeen years-old, bored at school, living in an Icelandic town where everyone knows his name, what is the title character of Dagur Kari’s 2003 film to do? As conceptualized by the writer-director, the uber-thin Noi Kristmundsson simply spends his days doing whatever he wishes: skipping school, violating a slot machine for coins, drinking malt beer, and visiting Baekur video-book store run by Oskar (Hjalti Rognvaldsson). Noi’s life receives much need sensory stimuli when the shop owner’s daughter Iris (Elin Hansdottir) comes to the village from the big city. Existing in a story structure where “nothing happens,” Noi experiences joy, displays resistance, and is confronted with sudden sadness.
Kari’s film examines isolation and uncertainty in an environment that incubates but does not facilitate human interaction, especially for the main character. Noi resides with the grandmother and occasionally sees his father (Prostur Leo Gunnarsson). Though he is by himself in many scenes, we cannot and do not assume he prefers to be alone. It just happens to be that way. The townspeople may all know Noi’s name, but because of his eccentric behavior and even appearance (think “Powder” without the powder), he is still an outsider. Furthermore, his actions originate from the mind of someone who is either a genius or an idiot. Perhaps he is neither brilliant nor base, but different. With skin so pale, he could merge with his physical surroundings and repel from the human component. Lemarquis portrays Noi’s insouciance and sense of humor with ease. Colored in blues and greens, “Noi” argues that even existential monotony is fleeting. It could end when least expected.