After the international success of the Icelandic TV series “Trapped,” Icelandic director Börkur Sigþórsson is close to finishing his new film called “Vargur” which will be in theatres on May 4th.
In a noir-style crime story, two Icelandic brothers are trying to solve their financial issues by smuggling a considerable amount of cocaine to Iceland. The Polish mule, having ingested the drugs, gets sick and barely makes it through customs. From there, a ferocious battle of survival begins.
“The story is about how these brothers deal with the situation differently. It’s about how far they are willing to go to protect themselves and what they’re prepared to sacrifice along the way,” explains Börkur. “Every noir has an anti-hero at its core who’s constantly being forced to choose between two hopeless options. And as an audience, you should be asking yourself: ‘What would I do in this situation?”
Confrontation is art
In a mix of social commentary and escapism, Börkur seeks to both entertain and stimulate a conversation. “Art is meant to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed,” he tells me. “I don’t think about filmmaking as activism. If you want to be an activist, be an activist. But if you want to be an artist, don’t supply answers. Provoke questions.”
Embrace the darkness
The themes of self-reliance, responsibility and accountability have been woven through Börkur’s work since he started directing shorts, with ‘Support’ being the first one in 2008, followed by ‘Come to Harm’ in 2011. “Everything is autobiographical in one way or another, and as an author, you are always drawing on that,” Börkur admits.
“Especially in crime films, you can tap into what you think are your own worst qualities and magnify them. Hence someone who is trafficking drugs and inflicting violence on people. You would not necessarily do that yourself but you wonder how a person gets to that point.”
Engaging the audience by showing enough, rather than too much, is what the director strives for. In order to get the viewer to resonate with the characters of the film, there has to be room for interpretation.
“Sometimes you just want the artist to shut up and pull back and let the work speak for itself,” says Börkur. “Forcing an interpretation onto the audience by stating my intentions is something that I’m very reluctant to.“
Preying on the weak
The English film title is “Vultures” but it was difficult finding a proper translation for the Icelandic word “Vargur”. It has a variety of different meanings, referring to humans and animals alike.
“It can be a predator, a creature that preys on weaker animals,” Börkur explains. “It can also mean an outcast. And, ironically, it can be complementary. Someone who is ruthless in their pursuit of a specific goal and will go to any lengths to achieve it,” he adds. All of these meanings carry a certain connection to the story of the film, to the environment the characters are set in as well as the characters themselves.
When asked about his expectations for the success of “Vargur“, Börkur gives a sober answer. “In my work, I strive for sincerity. We are all very similar, dealing with the same essential questions. If you are a moral person, you are constantly questioning your own morality. I think that is what will attract people to the film.”
“Vargur” will be in cinemas on 4th May.