So the Apocalypse is upon us and we are all wondering what it will look like. For Iceland, it’s business as usual, for when Hollywood filmmakers imagine the End of Days they surprisingly often come up with Iceland.
Dennis Quaid shot down over Iceland
One of the first instances happened in 1984 but was set in the late 21st Century. Mankind is at war with the reptilian Dracs, and Dennis Quaid is shot down over Iceland where he must learn to get along with Lou Gossett Jr. in a rubber suit. However, after spending the whole budget, the film was scrapped and Iceland was deemed to look too much like Iceland and Gossett too much like a man in a rubber suit. The director was replaced with Wolfgang Petersen, fresh off ‘The Neverending Story’, and reshot in the Canary Islands and West Germany. The finished product, ‘Enemy Mine’, bombed at the box office in 1985 but did brisk business in the real-life dystopia known as the Soviet Union.
Tom Cruise dumped in Iceland
Iceland looking like Iceland was not an issue for Tom Cruise, who came to these barren shores in 2012 to shoot ‘Oblivion’, set in a post-Apocalyptic 2077. Cruise himself left scorched earth behind, irritating northern farmers by closing off their grazing land and rumours even circulated that he had supermarkets closed to others when he did his shopping. Perhaps he was just being sensible about germs? Anyway, the poor fella can hardly be blamed for being in a bad mood. Katie Holmes came to Iceland just to dump him on his 50th birthday.
Russell Crowe worked out in Iceland
Rather more popular with the locals was Russell Crowe who worked out at the local gym and even played guitar with Patti Smith on Reykjavík’s annual Culture Night. He came here the year after the Cruise to shoot the pre-Apocalyptic Biblical epic ‘Noah’. Irrespective of whether Hollywood producers imagine dystopias in the future or the past, they look a lot like Iceland. The same is true for many an inhospitable planet, ranging from ‘Thor: Dark World’ to the Star Wars franchise.
One non-Hollywood production that may have included a post-Apocalyptic Iceland is 1972’s ‘La cicatrice intérieure’, or Inner Scar, starring the Germanic goddess Nico. But since the film has no discernible plot, it’s hard to tell.
Icelanders don’t make Sci-Fi, but we tried
What about Icelanders themselves? While we have the scenery for sci-fi, we have sadly lacked the budget. One of the few exceptions, if not in terms of budget, was 2010’s ‘Boðberi’ (‘Messenger’) about a cult intending to destroy the economy and featuring scenes shot during the actual Pots and Pans revolution. Another film set in a seemingly dystopian world much like our own is ‘Blossi/810551’, which sank the career of promising young director Júlíus Kemp but has since been re-evaluated as 90s camp. It includes the immortal line: “All we need to do is find another planet and keep the party going.”
An odd masterpiece
Perhaps the best Icelandic dystopias are ones that are set in the past. This goes for almost all of Hrafn Gunnlaugsson’s oeuvre, who for a while specialised in Viking films. Yet his masterpiece, if unacknowledged as such, is ‘Myrkrahöfðinginn’ (‘Prince of Darkness’) from 2000. Set in the Puritan era of the 17th century, it has witch hunts, superstition, castration and Danes. None more dystopian.
We will see how the post-COVID era holds up in comparison.
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