© Arsenal Filmverleih GmbH

Der Effekt des Wassers (The Aquatic Effect, L’Effet aquatique)
France/Iceland 2016

Opening 25 May 2017

Directed by: Sólveig Anspach, Jean-Luc Gaget
Writing credits: Sólveig Anspach, Jean-Luc Gaget
Principal actors: Samir Guesmi, Florence Loiret Caille, Didda Jónsdóttir, Philippe Rebbot, Olivia Côte

This quirky romantic comedy starts in a Parisian suburb, where Samir falls for Agathe, a swimming instructor at a local pool. To get Agathe’s attention, Samir pretends that he can’t swim and begins taking lessons from her. But when Agathe discovers that Samir is already an excellent swimmer, his lie cuts short their developing friendship and she hightails it to Iceland for an international conference of lifeguards. (Who knew there was such a thing?) Love-struck Samir follows, and there he concocts a new story, pretending to be an Israeli lifeguard who plans to create a giant swimming pool that will unite Israelis and Palestinians through aquatic sports. Samir’s kooky idea makes him the convention’s instant celebrity, making it impossible for Agathe to continue avoiding him. A pair of Icelandic bureaucrats – and part-time marijuana dealers – befriend the French duo, and provide philosophical musings on life and love, and the benefits of job-sharing, among other meandering topics.

It turns out that Der Effekt des Wassers is a sequel of sorts to Icelandic director Sólveig Anspach’s earlier Queen of Montreuil (2012), which I was not aware of while watching this film – nor was it noted anywhere in the press material. I only mention this because it helps explain some of the back story for why many of the seemingly random characters know each other. Der Effekt des Wassers, however, stands happily on its own as a strange little story populated by charming eccentrics. It balances a sweetly bizarre story with absurd humor, resulting in an odd confection that seems only possible from a French/Icelandic team. Anspach died of cancer during the film’s editing process, and her team worked to complete the film after her death. Der Effekt des Wassers has convinced me it’s worth going back to check out her previous films. (Diana Schnelle)

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