From Iceland — Film As Composition: Hlynur Pálmason’s 'A White, White Day' Illuminates Love, Loss, Grief & Doubt

Film As Composition: Hlynur Pálmason’s ‘A White, White Day’ Illuminates Love, Loss, Grief & Doubt

Film As Composition: Hlynur Pálmason’s ‘A White, White Day’ Illuminates Love, Loss, Grief & Doubt

Published August 30, 2019

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‘A White, White Day’ is travelling the world, picking up heat after its premiere at the International Critics Week at Cannes, and it is clear Hlynur Pálmason is creating visually stunning, soul-wrenchingly cathartic narratives. The director spoke with us about the importance of time as a medium in filmmaking, his working relationships and his future plans, revealing insight into how he creates such emotionally churning, and sincere films.

Hlynur Pálmason’s works stem from his own explorations of basic human emotions and feelings. “From there the stories find themselves,” he says. “If I went into making a film with a preconceived statement I would feel like I’d already let the film down in someway,or just ruined it.”

“I don’t make any statements; I’m not that fond of them.”

Film as composition

Hlynur works across mediums, with moving images, sounds, paintings and sculpture. For him, these are all parallel processes. “One of the things that excites me about this relationship is that a photograph can trigger a story or a storyline that builds into a film,” he shares. “Or you can be working on a film and it triggers something in your painting. I tend to think of my films as compositions.”

Hlynur Pálmason

Time does not heal all wounds

“Filmmaking and this film are very much about rhythm and time,” Hlynur continues. “Oil can be said to be the medium of painting. Time is the medium of filmmaking.”

Through the cinematography of the films prologue, Hlynur wanted to convey “the experience of time passing”—from the death of the protagonist’s wife, to when the story begins, and through stunning landscape film portraits of the run down-house that Ingimundur is fixing up for his daughter and granddaughter. The montage becomes an introduction to the landscape, the character of the weather, and a glimpse at how time passes for the living after death.

Time plays a big role in the heart-wrenching narrative. “People tend to say that time heals all wounds, but I don’t believe that’s always the case, and that’s not the case for Ingimundur,” Hlynur says. “He is not healing; he is an open wound, left behind with feelings of sorrow, anger, grief and doubt.”

Hlynur Pálmason

Hlynur Pálmason’s unspoiled Love

Ingvar E. Sigurðsson, who plays Ingimundur, won best performance accolades at La Semaine de la Critique at Cannes and at the Transylvania Film Festival. Hlynur and Ingvar have formed a special working relationship, he acted in Hlynur’s short film ‘En Maler’ (2013) and the role of Ingimundur was written with Ingvar in mind. Hlynur shares, “Ingvar is such a completely unique, warm and beautiful human being. He’s a very physical actor, but also extremely emotionally present.” During the readings and filming he says, “It’s like we are just following the film and doing what the film wants us to. It’s also so enjoyable, we don’t want it to end.”

“My films tend to become this strange blend of the past, present and future.”

Alongside Ingvar, Hlynur’s daughter, Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir, was cast in a supporting role, delivering a stunning performance as Ingimundur’s granddaughter, Salka. Their relationship in the film displays an unconditional love that cannot be shaken by the dark adult world, and is a relief in-between Ingimundur’s brutal coming to terms with reality.

“When they were together I wanted it to feel effortless and nice, that we would enjoy their company” Hlynur explains. “His granddaughter is the apple of his eye and she is one of the things that keeps him sane. You can feel so much humanity from children, they are so pure and unspoiled.”

On working with his daughter, Hlynur shares, “I feel like I’ve been working with her ever since she was born. Ída has been in many of my video works, photography series and paintings, she’s very used to the camera and playing around.” Adding, “All my children and my wife, are very much apart of my process and my work. It’s a way of having fun and communicating.”

Hlynur Pálmason

Life rooted

The film was shot and based in Höfn, where Hlynur grew up and where he confides that most of his memories were made. “Höfn is very close to my heart and roots.”

“My films tend to become this strange blend of the past, present and future,” Hlynur explains, reflecting on how his formative experiences in Höfn helped to shape his film. “The past being my roots and memories from where I come from. The present being the way I see and hear things at the moment and my temperament. The future being my ambition, desires and fears.”

Future is bright

Hlynur Pálmason and his family decided to move back to Höfn after having lived in Denmark for 10-12 years and are actually renting the house from the film from the town. “I got permission to put my own money into it and change it, use it as a location and change it into a liveable house.” He has big plans for the location. “In the near future the idea is to put up a filmmakers artist residency.”

“If I went into making a film with a preconceived statement I would feel like I’d already let the film down in someway, or just ruined it.”

“When you’re making a film you think about it and work on it for some years. You begin writing, developing, financing. You film it for a year, you edit and then it’s finished,” The director shares. “The last steps of the process are so fragile, the film has been with you for long it becomes this extremely important part of your life, until you have to say goodbye.” His dream is to create a space where those last steps can be enjoyed. He says excitedly, “A place where you can have peace and quiet to really focus and finish your work.”

‘A White, White Day’ certainly cements Hlynur Pálmason as one of Iceland’s most exciting filmmakers and celebrates the intricate relationship between the visual arts and filmmaking. His next big feature is a period film set in 1870, which follows a young ambitious Danish priest who sails to Iceland to build a church. It will also feature Ingvar Sigurðson.

Info: ‘A White, White Day’ premieres in Iceland on the 6th of September, book your tickets here.You can also read a previous article the Grapevine did on Hlynur Pálmason here.

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