Synopsis by Nathan Southern
With the bleak comedic drama Dark Horse, Icelandic director Dagur Kári reworks several thematic and topical elements from his prior film, Nói Albinói. He also crafts a feature which brings together two trends of Scandinavian cinema in the early 2000s: matter-of- fact examinations of ordinary, working class Scandinavian folks, with intersecting lives and stories, shot in stark black-and-white (typified by films such as Ragnar Bragasson's Born), and the low-key, whimsical, offbeat humor of northern European directors such as Aki Kaurismaki.Dark Horse opens in Copenhagen, where Daniel, a twentysomething young man, makes a paltry living as a graffiti painter, accepting money from Danish residents to create personalized valentines on the sides of buildings. Unable to collect enough from this trade to pay his rent, he is evicted and must approach his father for lodging, but the father refuses, forcing Daniel to sleep in his car. Daniel's friend Roger (nicknamed "Grandpa") works at a local medical clinic that is conducting sleep experiments on volunteers, including a judge; in Roger's off time, he trains as a football referee. Roger confides in Daniel about his discovery of a former model Franc, who works at a local bakery; Daniel and Franc inevitably then become involved, to Roger's consternation, and Roger plots to intervene by attempting to win Franc for himself. Meanwhile, the judge, suffering from pronounced sleep deprivation, has a complete emotional and mental breakdown and flies off the handle, engaging in increasingly bizarre and dysfunctional behavior.