Last Stop / Hlemmur (DVD) documentary
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Reykjavik, a strange combination of village and adolescent city. Bus connections are so poor here that people only use them as a last resort: children and teenagers, the poor, the old, the sick, the strange. No wonder Hlemmur, Reykjavik's biggest bus station, is the most disdained place in Iceland's capital.
It is these regular visitors to the Hlemmur bus station that the camera observes. People who have made Hlemmur their second home. They are almost all men and their common goal seems to be to find a way of passing the time. Most of them once had a family, a wife and children, but now they are alone. Something has thrown them off-track: some have been ruined by drink, others struggle with serious mental illnesses, others are on benefit or are simply old and lonely.
But as one of the film's protagonists points out, no one asks whether life is fair. In winter, the homeless have little choice but to crawl under a tree and spend the night there when they are drunk, or try their luck at the "Hotel Hilton", as they call Reykjavik's biggest prison, next to Hlemmur. The life of these down-and-outs seems to be one endless cycle of scraping together enough money for the high-proof cardamom essence they drink, and the desperate attempt to remember what happened the day before. And the only thing left to many of them is the hope they won't have to survive the following day. They speak frankly and surprisingly poetically about their life on the street and what drove them there. Very gradually, the viewers develop a close rapport with these men.
Occasionally, Hlemmur's frequenters believe things might be getting better. Like when the depressive Josef finds work again for the first time in ten years. The camera accompanies him to the Kleppur psychiatric clinic where for a few hours every day, he packs bag after bag into box after endless box. Or when the almost 70-year old Omar goes for detox treatment at a remote, top-security clinic on the outskirts of Reykjavik, or the alert but mentally unstable Björgvin Omar sits on a bench outside the bus station twitching convulsively but still clinging to the hope that he'll one day get better. Almost desperately, we hope their timid dreams of a normal life will come true, not least of all because they are so conscious of their situation. But it's clear there's no going back.
- Directed by: Ólafur Sveinsson
- Music: Sigur Rós
- Type: Documentary
- Premiere Date: December 13, 2002
- Length: 86 min.
- Language: Icelandic
- Subtitles: English
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