Eight Icelandic Films: Naked Farmers, Equine Sex, And Yes, There’s An Elf

Eight Icelandic Films: Naked Farmers, Equine Sex, And Yes, There’s An Elf

Eight Icelandic Films: Naked Farmers, Equine Sex, And Yes, There’s An Elf

Published July 16, 2019

Each summer, Bíó Paradís mounts a programme of Icelandic films with English subtitles. This year, there are eight films on offer, featuring everything from farmer nudity to eco-terrorism to a Viking spaghetti Western. Do you only have time to see one? From oldest to newest, here’s our guide to help you choose.

The Raven Flies (1984)
Often described as a “Viking spaghetti western,” this cinematic classic from Hrafn Gunnlaugsson is every bit as fun and entertaining as any Sergio Leone film, but with Settlement era Vikings instead of Clint Eastwood. Helpfully, the warring clans are easily identified—one wears red, the other wears blue. Snilld. AF

Cold Fever (1995)
If you ever wondered where the stereotype that Icelanders are quirky and eccentric came from, look no further. While ostensibly about a Japanese man who visits Iceland to pay respects to his parents, who died there in a car crash, it’s actually a continuous but disjointed series of encounters between a reserved man and various wacky Icelanders. And yes, there’s an elf, too. AF

101 Reykjavík (2000)
The coming-of-age tale that put the Icelandic cinema’s slowcore style of storytelling on the map, 101 Reykjavík charts the life of a dropout manchild as he tries to discover his place in the world. His terminal boredom and general misadventures are witty and well-observed, offering countless memorable moments. It’s also a valuable period piece about turn-of-the-millennium Reykjavík—check out the unrecognisable skyline in the final shot. JR

Jar City (2006)
This murder mystery was penned by Arnaldur Indriðason and directed by Baltasar Kormákur. Ingvar E. Sigurðsson, Iceland’s most notable actor of the period (and perhaps still), does a fine job as cranky detective Erlendur; bad guy Theódór Júlíusson manages to look menacing at 57. Despite the often-impressive production values, it feels in parts like a TV pilot—quite good, but it could have gone further. VG

Of Horses And Men (2013)
Infamous for its xxx-rated movie poster featuring equine sex, ‘Of Horses And Men’ interweaves half a dozen sagas about rural Icelanders and the horses on which they interdepend. The stories unfold through the horses’ eyes, as fortune and misery befall their human companions. Passion for romance, passion for alcohol, passion for equestrianism, passion for survival—‘Of Horses And Men’ seduces through quirk and charm. AR

Rams (2015)
After a 40-year falling out, two brothers butt heads over the wellness of their prized sheep stock. Unusual premise for a film? Absolutely. One of the best Icelandic films ever? It’s the real deal. It is exquisitely written, touching, and altogether surprising from start to end. Also, I haven’t been this excited about full frontal nudity since Harvey Keitel in ‘The Piano,’ so there’s that added carrot. AR

Under The Tree (2017)
In ‘Undir Trénu,’ the shadow cast from the tree next door sparks a seething feud between neighbours which ultimately culminates in tragedy. Through its suburban setting and tight knit cast of intriguing and troubled characters, Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson’s third film deftly juxtaposes raw emotion with the banalities of daily life to bleakly funny effect. CW

Woman At War (2018)
An activist carries out a one-woman campaign to halt an unnamed industrial development. Much-hyped and heavily stylised, ‘Kona For í Stríð’ features an all-star band that hangs around in the background soundtracking the scenes while our heroine carries out cute eco-terrorism and communes with the nature she’s protecting. It’s pretty to look at—Wes Anderson fans will appreciate it—but the message is simultaneously lightweight and heavy-handed. A Jodie Foster-fronted remake is in the works. JR

See these films at Bíó Paradís all summer long. Times and info: bioparadis.is. Read more about Icelandic Films here.

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