From Iceland — Lamenting a Dying Model

Lamenting a Dying Model

Lamenting a Dying Model

Published July 15, 2008

Documentary Kjötborg was previewed at the Skjaldborg film festival this spring, where it won over the hearts of the audience, along with the festival’s sole award (an “audience award”, as it were). It was recently screened in Háskólabíó to great critical and commercial response and will ultimately make its way to local television and DVD releases later this year. Furthermore, it is being shopped around to various international film festivals, where it will surely win many other awards and go on to greater international success.

Set in Vesturbær institution-slash-convenience store Kjötborg (“Meat City”!), the eponymous film documents the life of the store, its owners (brothers Gunnar and Kristján) and some of its patrons. A  neighbourhood  shop if there ever was one, Kjötborg stocks pretty much everything its customers could ever need in its cramped quarters (and the proprietors will go to every length to acquire whatever’s missing) and has been servicing the community of Vesturbær for several decades. The brothers make sure to pander to their customers’ every need, delivering sandwiches to hunger striking mutineers at the old folks home and ensuring a regular has enough chewing gum and chocolate after closing time (a popular story not included in the film goes that the Kjötborg brothers actually arranged one of their regulars’ funeral).

The film features the brothers reminiscing about various milestones in Kjötborg’s history and times they’ve had whilst running it, interspersed with candid shots of daily life within the store and interviews with select patrons. Shot over the course of a year (2006), we follow the Kjötborg brothers through the seasons, slowly getting the impression that something deeply important is being lost as the last of the neighbourhood stores fight a losing battle against more efficient models of consumption. Ultimately, Kjötborg is a portrait of a nation that has undergone some severe changes in a short amount of time and what those changes mean; it is a reflection on Icelanders’ shifting values and aspirations, where they may be leading us and what we may be losing in the process.

Kjötborg is bound to see lots of success, for it is the kind of film that stays with you for a long time after an initial viewing. It manages to raise thoughts and make some very valid points without ever making an argument or reverting to any of the various propagandist tools available to filmmakers on a mission (even if it definitely has some tearjerker moments). It draws you in with its combination of steady cinematic rhythm, pleasant views and carefully placed music (by the excellent Sindri Már of Seabear fame) and refuses to let you go without giving some thought to what’s being discussed. Directors Helga Rakel Rafnsdóttir and Hulda Rós Guðnadóttir deserve all the praise that’s coming to them. Kjötborg is an entertaining, yet engaging film and comes highly recommended.

Due to popular demand, Kjötborg will be screened at Háskólabíó this coming weekend, English subtitles and all. Don’t fret if you missed it though; this “popular demand” has been keeping Kjötborg in theatres for a while now.”

  • WHAT: Movie “Kjötborg”
  • DIRECTED BY: Helga Rakel Rafnsdóttir and Hulda Rós Guðnadóttir
  • MUSIC BY: Sindri Már Sigfússon
  • RUNNIG TIME: 47 minutes
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