Culture
Movies & Theatre
AMERICAN DIPLOMACY AND THE DECLINE OF DEMOCRACY

AMERICAN DIPLOMACY AND THE DECLINE OF DEMOCRACY

Published February 11, 2005

A nightmare scenario? Well, yes, and also the subject of a new play, American Diplomacy, written and directed by aspiring young playwright Þorleifur Arnarsson. Give or take the terrorist act, the situation is actually more plausible than you might think. When Grapevine tried to find out last summer who was responsible for governing the country when the Foreign Minister was away and the Prime Minister was in hospital, it turned out it was none other than agricultural minister Guðni Ágústson, number three in line as head of government.
Torturing Prime Ministers
“It’s a political tragicomedy,” says Þorleifur. “We are lucky enough to have in the leading role the actor Hjálmar Hjálmarsson, who used to do spoof news on radio for seven years, so he has the necessary experience. Every morning we go over the latest news and see what we can work into the play.”
This may very well be the most political play to make its way onto an Icelandic stage in quite some time, but Þorleifur has directed political stuff before. His dramatisation of Orwell’s 1984, where he locked up the actors in a cell for the night to get them in the right mood, left no one who saw in unmoved. And he also directed the play Pentagon, a collection of 5 mini plays, four of which were by aspiring young writers such as Eiríkur Norðdal and Haukur Már Helgason, and the fifth was by Australian Vanessa Badham.
“Most of the segments were very political. Haukur Már’s piece was about a couple of philosophers who kidnap a Prime Minister and torture him while discussing Socrates’ theories on violence.”
Missing Australians
Vanessa Badham also figures in the current play, although more by her absence.
“I flew to Australia to meet her. She was going to write a play that I was to direct called American Diplomacy. Then one mishap followed another and she was unable to do it. I was left with a grant from the Ministry of Culture and a play, so there was nothing for it but to write the damn thing myself.”
The art of directing theatre is not, contrary to popular belief, an inherited craft but an acquired one. But even if it were, Þorleifur would have the right pedigree. His father is renowned actor Arnar Jónsson, who most recently played legendary bishop Jón Arason in the National Theatre’s Öxin og jörðin, and his mother is Þórhildur Þorleifsdóttir, who recently directed the City Theater’s Hýbýli vindanna. But he grew up around politics as well as the arts.
“My father was arrested once in 1962 for writing socialist slogans on a NATO ship. He was locked up during the day, but the jailer let him go during the evening as he had to attend a theatre rehearsal that night.”
Bloggers in jail
But Þorleifur is set to make it in the theatre in his own right. And his opinions are all his own too.
“What we are witnessing now is the decline of democracy, as the major corporations assume more control of the individual. As we speak, the first blogger is being sued by Apple corp in the United States, even though the constitution there is supposed to be protecting his right to free speech. It’s this decline of democracy that I’m afraid we’re seeing the beginning of here.”
And yet Þorleifur still sees cause for optimism: “Despite everything, we did see some progress in the 20th Century. Oppression of women or minority groups is no longer tolerated to the extent that it was 50 years ago. So some things can actually change for the better.”
American Diplomacy is premiered at Borgarleikhúsið on February 24th.



Culture
Movies & Theatre
<?php the_title(); ?>

Horse Manoeuvre

by

Benedikt Erlingsson’s theatrical debut is a mosaic of several stories that centre on people’s colourful relationships with their horses. The film, ‘Of Horses And Men,’ which came out in late August of last year, has received glowing reviews from critics and it has picked up several awards on the festival circuit, such as the Kutxa-New Directors awards at the San Sebastián Film Festival, and the Best Director Award, at the Tokyo Film Festival. We spoke with Benedikt about his love for storytelling, cinema and horses. Why did you decide to make a film about horses? When you’re starting out in

Culture
Movies & Theatre
<?php the_title(); ?>

A Hard Metal Life

by

Young Hera, played by Þorbjörg Helga Dýrfjörð, witnesses the accidental death of her older brother, Baldur. In response, she remakes herself in his image; she adopts his metal music, clothes, and when we see her in her 20s, she is a full-blown metalhead. Despite nearly a decade since the tragedy, the death of Baldur continues to loom over her and her family, their lives consumed by grief. Her mother and father have internalised their grief, manifesting itself in silences and coldness to one another. Though Hera hardly talks about it either, her outlet for all that pain is through her

Culture
Movies & Theatre
<?php the_title(); ?>

Cool Off With Cool Cuts

by

In the four years since Bíó Paradís opened, the cinema has become a hub for Icelandic independent films as well as others that would not be shown elsewhere. In 2010, Programme Director Ása Baldursdóttir started ‘Cool Cuts,’ a summer series of Icelandic films with English subtitles. Though certainly a boon for tourists interested in Icelandic cinema, she also believes it is an important addition to Reykjavík’s cultural landscape. What was the idea behind creating Cool Cuts? Our idea was to strengthen the visibility of Icelandic filmmaking to English speakers with the best Icelandic films. We think it’s a great addition

Culture
Movies & Theatre
<?php the_title(); ?>

Real ‘Life In A fishbowl’

by

‘Life In A Fishbowl’ tells three distinct stories of people living in pre-crisis Iceland. It stars Hera Hilmarsdóttir as Eik, a down on her luck kindergarten teacher who struggles to support her daughter; Þorsteinn Bachmann as Móri, a troubled writer; and Þorvaldur Davíð as Sölvi, an ex-footballer on the fast-track working for a bank doing some shady business. Director Baldvin Z teamed up with writer/musician Birgir Örn (of the band Maus) to write the screenplay for ‘Vonarstræti’ (‘Life In A Fishbowl’). It’s a follow up to his debut feature ‘Jitters’ (2010). Even though Baldvin has directed commercials, two feature films

Culture
Movies & Theatre
<?php the_title(); ?>

Uh, No

by

Man, fuck Darren Aronofsky. Fuck his weak, hacky, hammy, pretentious, melodramatic, student-filmmaking-with-a-budget shit. I’ve always been mystified as to how it is he gets people to buy his overdone soap opera crap as serious film, but I’m confident ‘Noah’–a retelling of the renowned Biblical yarn with all the animals on the boat, shot largely in Iceland–will finally be his undoing; it will expose his shoddily constructed ‘films’ for what they are: overwrought and overrated pandering to fad-driven art-house wannabes who are too impatient for genuine counterculture film, but too proud to admit they’d rather be watching a Michael Bay movie. 

Culture
Movies & Theatre
<?php the_title(); ?>

The Wolf Of Borgartún

by

“Fuck the bankers who stole my money.” “Fuck the bankers who stole my money.” “I will make it all back and then some.” “I will make it all back and then some.” A couple hundred Icelanders have risen from their seats in Háskólabíó to repeat after Jordan Belfort, the “Wolf of Wall Street,” the high-living penny stock wizard and white-collar felon turned reformed, sober guru of sales, entrepreneurship and “ethical persuasion.” Following the recent Scorsese/DiCaprio adaptation of Belfort’s memoir–a cautionary tale, but one which does not undersell the appeal of drug-fueled financial-sector dick-swinging–tickets for his Reykjavík appearance, in early May,

Show Me More!