It´s easy to think of five good Icelandic films. When I look over this list I see that the films on it are incredibly varied regarding content and subject matter. The only problem facing Icelandic filmmaking is that Icelanders are only 280.000 rather than 280 million. But that will hopefully get better.
If I had to pick one film from this list and put it in the DVD player tonight, I would choose Land and Sons, stroll comfortably down memory lane, and recollect the premiere of the film in Austurbæjarbíó a quarter-century ago. One came out of the film in ecstatic bliss, exhilarated just as when you came out of the 3 o’ clock matinee in the old days inspired by Tarzan, Roy Rogers and Bugs Bunny. Magic. Finally, there was an Icelandic film that looked exactly like a real film. Finally, Icelanders had made the silver screen in sensual, razor-sharp Kodak Eastman colours. That is to say, regular people and not trolls and dwarves, witches and elves, or a local version of the Three Stooges as in the first primitive Icelandic films.
And now, 25 years later I put the film into the machine with trembling hands. Will the magic still work?
1. Benjamin the Dove (Benjamín dúfa) by Gísli Snær. A beautiful and well made children´s film which did not get the international attention it deserved, perhaps because it deals with tragedy. Too strong for children at the time. That was before the time of Voldemort.
2. Angels of the Universe (Englar alheimsins) by Friðrik Þór. Iceland´s answer to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, except the ending is hopeless.
3. When The Raven Flies (Í skugga hrafnsins) by Hrafn Gunnlaugsson. An Icelandic “Northern,” echoes of Sergio Leone and Kurosawa. Horses, violence and beautiful scenery. A strong mixture.
4. 101 Reykjavík by Baltasar Kormákur. The grim humour of Hallgrímur Helgason survives the transition to the big screen. It was Hallgrímur who discovered that Reykjavík is cool. Baltasar is born cool. Even I felt a little cool when I saw this film.
5. Land and Sons (Land og synir) by Ágúst Guðmundsson. The first Icelandic film that looked like a real film. I always get an attack of nostalgia when I think about this film.
6. The Icelandic Dream (Íslenski draumurinn) by Robert Douglas. Þórhallur pulls a star turn in the leading role. I want to see more of him. Where is he today?
7. Rust (Ryð) by Lárus Ýmir Óskarsson. I had never considered that mechanics could be really unhappy until I saw this film. Along with Egill Eðvarðsson Lárus, Lárus has the nicest style of Icelandic directors.
8. Honour of the House (Ungfrúin góða og húsið). Good period. Good actresses. Good Egill Ólafsson
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