Nighttime in Stockholm. Interior of the Absolut Icebar Stockholm at the Nordic Sea Hotel. JOHN and JANE SMITH are in a small bar constructed entirely of ice—the floor and walls from blocks of it, ice benches topped with reindeer skins, a blonde Swedish BARTENDER GIRL pouring drinks into thick highball glasses made of ice. JANE and JOHN are wearing black mittens and hooded, fur-trimmed silver ski ponchos that could have been designed for a Lost in Space sequel. JANE is shivering.
How many people have worn this space poncho before me today?
BARTENDER GIRL (pouring lingonberry juice and Absolut vodka into an ice glass, a concoction that JOHN believes should be called Reindeer Tears but in fact is not) I don’t know. Ten? Twenty? Every hour a new group comes in here.
This sucks. I’m too freakin’ cold to drink.
It feels like ten people have worn this poncho before me. I smell German tourist—the distinct aroma of stale beer and fanny packs.
A German tourist in the corner looks at JOHN with a hurt expression, then takes his fanny pack off to smell it. All around them are tourists from different places—Middle Easterners, Euros, Americans, Africans, Asians—dressed in silver ponchos taking pictures as if they were on the observation deck of the Empire State Building.
JANE (looking longingly at the hotel lobby through the icy wall) Does the fact that we paid, like, 50 bucks to be in here mean we have to stay for the full 45 minutes? If I could just go out there for a minute, walk among the regular people in their sweaters and jeans, then come back, maybe a frozen shot of Absolut Whateverberry would be more appealing.
You’re free to leave and come back, you know.
But that would be failing. I have to stay and freeze alongside everyone else.
Close-up of JANE’s face, a delirious smile plastered on it. The world begins to ripple, music comes up, signifying JANE’s flashback: JANE is lying on a white queen-size bed. Above her head the light changes from purple to blue to green to yellow in a rainbow effect. It seems JANE is having an out-of-body, hallucinogenic experience. Then the camera pans to JANE’s left hand turning a knob built into the bed. As she rotates the dial, the colors on the walls and ceiling transform.
Here I am at the Nordic Light Hotel. (Then, looking directly into the camera, talking to the audience) Look, I don’t like it any more than you do, but I have to say the name of the hotel at some point. It’s better than my saying: The Nordic Light Hotel, sister of the Nordic Sea Hotel, the weirdly nautical-themed place where the Icebar is located, is one of the so-called design hotels of Stockholm, itself a so-called design city. It’s better than my saying, as dialogue, “The whole concept of the Nordic Light Hotel is lots of different-colored lights.” Of course, I just said all that.
Jane! Jane!! Come here!
John? Where are you?
I’m in the breakfast bar of the hotel. It’s yesterday! Join me in this part of the flashback!
Cut to JOHN eating a heaping plate of smoked fish and Jarlsberg cheese at a sleek white kidney-shaped table, sitting in a designy chair. (In the evenings the breakfast bar becomes a popular nightspot where Swedes drink their strong liquors, as they like to do, and shake their blond locks while DJs spin electronic and house music.)
You know, I did like the breakfast bar. The Scandinavian design, it almost makes you forget that this hotel is a repurposed office building.
Jane! Come over here! I am walking down Stockholm’s pristine European shopping streets!
Cut to JOHN strolling past Bookbinders Design, a paper shop that looks like the MoMA Design Store and one of many artsy-cool spots on Norrlandsgatan Street. JANE appears next to him and stops one of the countless beautiful women on the street.
Excuse me, ma’am.
(speaking perfect English, as all Swedes seem to do) Thank you! But you make us sound like an army of androids.
Suddenly JANE disappears.JOHN looks around.
I’m over here now, JOHN. On the street next to our hotel.
Cut to JOHN and JANE in front of Burger King.
Even the Burger King is a design Burger King! That high-gloss wood-grain paneling? The themed images projected onto the wall? If it weren’t for the scent of Whoppers, I’d think I was at an Amy Sacco club in Manhattan.
JOHN’s voice is heard first. Then cut to JOHN back in the Icebar.
Arctic explorer to Jane, Arctic explorer to Jane: Are you there, Jane? It’s quiet. Too quiet! (JANE snaps out of it. JOHN (continues in a normal voice.) I think she’s got brain freeze!
It’s so cold. So cold. I feel sleepy. There’s a white light. It looks so warm and inviting.
Don’t go to the light! (They laugh. Then JOHN says, more seriously) Why are we staying in here? I feel like we might be part of a Swedish reality show and not know it—how long will the dumb tourist freeze?
Hmmm. I think you’re right. The joke is on us. Like, if someone put a few bottles of vodka into a walk-in freezer, would you pay to go inside for 45 minutes? I mean, it makes sense to have an ice hotel in Lapland in the winter. But an indoor ice bar in the middle of a city when it’s 60 degrees out? This would not make Leonardo DiCaprio very happy.
Let’s go back to the room.
Yeah, I have light dials to play with.
Nordic Sea Hotel is located at 4 Vasaplan, Stockholm (from $335 to $500). Nordic Light Hotel is at 7 Vasaplan (from $380 to $620). For more information on both hotels, call 46-8/5056-3000.