November 15, 2007


Picture This (Iceland Review, 11/09/07)

I watched Mýrin (Jar City) the other night, a suspense thriller by Baltasar Kormákur, one of our most celebrated directors, which is based on a book by Arnaldur Indridason, who has enjoyed considerable popularity both in Iceland and abroad. It was the winner of the 2006 Eddas and is Iceland’s contribution to the race for the 2007 Best Foreign-Language Film nomination at the Oscars.

I enjoyed the film, though I’m not sure it’s exactly Oscar material. It’s a decent investigative story with an interesting plot and it stays true to the book, which I really liked. But I’m no expert. My brother, who is studying multimedia, mentioned that the color correction had focused too much on creating a bleak and somber effect, adding to the generally depressing mood of the film. It is typical for Icelandic movies, he said.

And that got me thinking. Mýrin is very Icelandic. It is set in an Icelandic reality, modern Iceland clashing with old Iceland. Weathered seaside village vs. modern Reykjavík, old fashioned lopapeysa-clad detective eating sheep heads and lamb stews vs. modern detective educated in the US, who drinks lattés and curses at his partner for smoking in his car. Being Icelandic means being depressing, featuring rape, death of children, drug addicts, corruption, suicide, child pornography, divorce, cheating and murder.

Every other Icelandic film will leave you insanely depressed because it is dark and gloomy throughout (apart from a few satiric jokes) and has no happy ending. It may be good, like Nói Albínói (2003), which is one of the best Icelandic films I have ever seen, but it still leaves you feeling sad.

One of the best things about the books is the way they draw upon Iceland's recent history, providing an education as they entertain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 15, 2007 9:22 AM
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