Last year, we would have jumped for joy were there a mandated reason requiring us to stay home. What would we do? Watch Netflix? Eat a lot? Be lazy without guilt? Awesome!
This year? We’re kind of over it, not gonna lie. But to help you out, the Grapevine staff is here to give their best Iceland-related movie & TV recs for your weekend. Relax and use it as an excuse not to talk to your family.
Hannah Jane’s Picks
I don’t expect anyone reading this to be familiar with my personality traits, but trust me, those who know me as more than the Culture Editor of this magazine know unequivocally that my favourite film is and will always be Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. I think it’s a beautiful mediation on the nature of God, the meaning of our lives, and the innate hubris of humanity. Seriously—what is scarier than asking your creator why you were made only to receive a confusing, aggressive lack-of-answer that just creates even more questions? That said, it’s probably the most realistic situation. Were we ever to meet our great designers, who are we to assume we’d even be on a level to communicate with them? We’d probably be like ants to their intellect—and just try to have a conversation about existence with a fucking ant and then come back to me. Nevermind the fact that David, the android, does ask a human why they made him, only to hear the answer, “Because we could.” OOOOH! Love it! Anyway, the film is rife with gorgeous Icelandic locations starting with a truly jaw-dropping nightmare-creating bodybuilder-decimation scene at Dettifoss. It’s just like being there yourself—albeit terrifying.
You should also check out Game Of Thrones, one of the best series of our time which had filming locations all over Iceland. Just kidding—skip it. In fact, there’s been a global pandemic where everyone has been forced to stay at home and not one fucking person worldwide used that time to rewatch it. Thanks D&D.
Hross í Oss (‘Of Horses And Men’) is so oddly unique that it feels like drinking from a pure spring while listening to the most beautiful poem ever written—which is “Ferðalok” by Jónas Hallgrímsson, just to be clear. This movie is a compilation of stories about Icelandic people, their struggles and their horses. The movie, directed by Benedikt Erlingsson, got the Nordic Council Price in 2014—in fact, it was the first Icelandic movie to get thoat prestige award.
That said, if you’re a horse-hating monster, you can’t go wrong with any of Benedikt’s other movies. His film Woman At War is also a masterpiece and Jodie Foster is actually working on remaking the movie for the US market, which seems to have great issues with listening to any other language than English in theatres.
Andie Sophia’s Picks
My favourite Icelandic movie of all time is Djöfleyjan, which tells the story of a working class Icelandic family at the tail end of the American occupation of Iceland after World War 2. This story is pretty heartbreaking, albeit with a touch of comedy, and the characters are all well-rounded and sympathetic. You can actually watch the whole thing on YouTube here (albeit without subtitles). But no recommendation of Icelandic film would be complete without mentioning Með allt á hreinu, a musical comedy involving two Icelandic bands: Stuðmenn and Grýlurnar. It’s hard to say what the plot of this film is beyond “two bands tour Iceland and get up to shenanigans” but pretty much everyone in Iceland has seen this film at least 50 times, so watching it for yourself will give you conversation fodder with the locals.
If you’re in the mood for something so bad it’s, well, not exactly good but certainly memorable, then definitely check out Blossi/810551. I won’t ruin the experience of watching this film for the first time by saying anything about the plot; this is a film best watched with a clean slate. In terms of television, you absolutely cannot go wrong with Jón Gnarr’s brilliant series Næturvaktin. This series, a cringe comedy that recounts the adventures of night shift gas station workers, is probably the best Icelandic television comedy series ever made.
“A man living a dull life dreams up romantic and action-filled scenarios in order to escape from monotony”—I think that’s something we can all relate to in a global pandemic. If there’s one thing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was consistently praised for, it was the cinematography, which established every scene like a perfectly composed photograph of the kind you’d see in National Geographic or Life magazine, where Walter Mitty actually works in the film. And fortunately for us, loads of it was set in Iceland. Witness Ben Stiller longboarding through Seyðisfjörður and speeding away in the car of a local Icelander as Eyjafjallajökull erupts behind him. Höfn and Stykkishólmur were also used in the film’s Greenland scenes (wait, what?) whilst Vatnajökull National Park made its acting debut as Afghanistan and the Himalayas. We’re not sure if disguising Iceland in this manner is a backhanded compliment or an insult, but let’s assume a compliment.
If you feel like bursting a few brain cells, you could also check out Fast And Furious 8, hailed by some as “the worst Fast and Furious ever.” With a car chase through North Iceland and a Russian submarine bursting through the surface of Lake Mývatn, what could feel more classically Icelandic?
The ultimate origin story, The Joker tells the tale of Arthur Fleck, a clown and stand up comedian who turns to a life of crime after being shunned by society. Strictly speaking not part of the DC Universe, Joker is a tense psychological thriller that sees the villain become the hero. Descending into insanity, Arthur—played perfectly by Joaquin Phoenix—becomes something of a revolutionary, inspiring the downtrodden to step up against the wealthy and powerful. A clever telling of the Joker’s story, you may watch Batman films in a different light, with an understanding of why the Joker is how he is, which, dare I say it, may make you actually feel sorry for him….? Winner of multiple awards including the Academy Award for Best Actor In a Leading Role, it’s the Academy Award and Golden Globe awarded to our gal Hildur Guðnadóttir for her stunning soundtrack that puts this film on our Best of list. The film is exceptional but is just as sublime if you sit with your eyes shut for the whole thing because the music is *chef’s kiss*.
And for the sci-fi fans, Interstellar is a must. Set in a future where the Earth has become uninhabitable, a group of explorers are sent out to find a new home for mankind and that new home is, of course, Iceland. Filmed at Svínafellsjökull and Máfabót Glacier, Iceland does a beautiful job of looking like a vast and barren alien planet that you definitely would not want to get stuck on.
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