Review: Spaghetti (Loosely Based on a True Story) (2021)

If you think you are having a bad day, remember that someone else is probably having even a worse one. For instance, the protagonist of Egill Gauta’s and Nikulás Tumi’s short thriller-comedy Spaghetti (Loosely Based on a True Story) that has just premiered at Shortfish competition of Stockfish.

Over a course of just one morning, she is going to run into the trouble with the bank, crash her car into another one, be chased on foot through a half of the city by a potential psycho, listen to the worst possible pornographic cover of Happy Birthday to You-song, get bloody, broken and dirty, and, on top of that, be fired by her boss for being late and telling a story so unbelievable that “dog ate my homework”-type of excuse seems like a work of naturalism. However, it all started with a lost or misplaced food container, so she has to carry her spaghetti-lunch (hence the title) in a plastic bag while doing all those things.

The film is clearly based on an anecdote or the collection of different ones. As stated in the second part of the title, anecdotes do not have to be all true to be engaging and fun to listen to, to film and to watch. The primary quality of those are their bizarreness and twisty-ness. Gauta and Tumi know that very well, so they do not even try to make it appear realistic and relatable, going for the fun factor and sheer coolness instead, making Spaghetti an inspired, crafty and technically apt work of cinema that could serve as the flagship of their future filmmaking portfolio, especially having in mind that they did most of the work themselves.

The trouble is, however, that they are clearly trying to hard and overplaying their hand of cards. All those beautifully framed static shots of the streets, parks, suburban houses and modernist / brutalist buildings in black and white, fine tunings with the gradual addition of different musical instruments into the film’s main musical theme and even those fade-outs to a narrow circle and fade-ins from the same circle could serve just for the technical show-off. The reason for that is that a lot in the film’s tissue seems artificial, starting from the flashback structure, to the general impression that the duo is trying to emulate the early works of the masters like Jim Jarmusch, Coen brothers, Quentin Tarantino and others, while actually merely imitating their style. In the end, Spaghetti is a fun short film, but there is something missing…

Original title: Spagettí (Lauslega byggt á sannri sögu)
Year: 2021
Runtime: 16’ 46’’
Country: Iceland
Language: Icelandic
Directed by: Egill Gauta, Nikulás Tumi
Written by: Egill Gauta, Nikulás Tumi
Cast: Marta Ákadóttir, Atli James, Hólmfrídur Haflidadóttir, Kjartan Logi Sigurjónsson, Helgi Grímur Hermannson, Sigurjón Kjartansson
Cinematography by: Nikulás Tumi
Editing by: Egill Gauta, Nikulás Tumi
Music by: Elías Geir Óskarsson, Egill Gauti Sigurjónson, Tómas van Oosterhout
Sound recording by: Hjálmar Karlsson, Nikulás Tumi