Yesterday, aside from being one of the hardest days to stay conscious in my life, was worth every woozy painful second. Laugardalslaug was my therapy of choice. I took my London friends who are visiting (for the first time) there. We went on the waterslide, which is awesome. I almost didn’t for fear of throwing up on the way down. But after several laps, plunges in and out of the cold bath (5°C), steam room, and hot tubs I could think happy thoughts again without feeling my carotid artery pulsate.
Just as we were on our way to Valdís for ice cream and settled into the idea of sleeping through the rest of the night, I got a call from the Grapevine to go to the Icelandic premiere of Saga Film’s “The Show of Shows“. The producers Margrét and Ragnar were hosting a casual drinks party in a flat beforehand which just so happens to be Margrét’s brother Pétur’s. It happens to be located conveniently above the movie theatre. It also happens to be a flat where my friend use to live before Pétur bought it, one which I have heard about several times. I witness this kind of joyful coincidence more in Reykjavík than any other city. But on the other side of joy is fear and I was going to have to form intelligible sentences with new people in a live unfamiliar setting. And take photographs too, so basically draw attention to myself no matter how hard I try to be discreet.
Here I am being really discreet with Hilmar Örn Agnarsson and Páll frá Húsafelli.
The flat has a balcony with a view of Esjan and these new builds. A sign on the crane says “ekki skamma þig” something like “don’t shame yourself.” I had like five translations from five people which also included “don’t shame me.” If you know better please feel free to comment below.
I love books and people who love to read books.
Here’s another view of the flat with my mate Emma in the foreground. I was recharging like an iPhone on the sofa. Inefficiently.
When we arrived we were greeted by Margrét at the top of the stairs peeking down. After a small but hefty climb which nearly levelled me, we were warmly welcomed and offered drinks. I opted for Coca Cola and Abbey, also a producer graciously poured me a glass which revived me somewhat.
Sugar, alcohol, and caffeine are for so many, the chemistry of life. The rest of the night went to normality. The flat felt very much like New York City. It even had a beautiful service elevator.
We took it down to the ground and filed into the cinema. Guess who was playing in the lobby of Bíó Paradís? Agent Fresco. They were better in a small setting where they couldn’t jump around quite as much.
Sat in the blue seats waiting for the film to begin I had absolutely no idea what to expect, a fact I tried to conceal at the cocktail party. I can’t believe I actually considered going home to sleep after the drinks. I am so very glad I didn’t.
The film is entirely made up of archive footage covering roughly 100 years of circus and entertainment. You won’t believe it till you see it. Monkeys on horseback, violent steer wrangling, clowning, elephants, dancing, vintage striptease, three year olds boxing, knife throwing, blindfolded men boxing in fours in a ring provoked to lunge forward and swing by a gleeful woman with a prodding boxing-glove- stick.
Much, much, more. It is at once entertaining, inspiring, horrific, beautiful, and enlightening. With one sequence of images I wondered if other animals are cruel the way humans are. Another would showcase human ingenuity and inspire me. I felt all the emotions.
Boredom is a great motivator I thought, watching people on a farm perform spectacular coordinated acrobatics and horse jumping over hay bales. A one-armed boy tames a tiger. What happened there? The question is never answered. The film has no clear ‘narrative’, uses no words but it had plenty to say. The score was written by Georg Hólm and Orri Páll Dýrason of Icelandic band Sigur Rós in cooperation with Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and Kjartan Dagur Hólm. They said they had a lot of fun making the score but knowing what I do of producing I reckon the producers absorbed much if not all of the ‘unfun’.
The score was beautiful, emotive, and also told stories without words, rhythmically supporting and counterbalancing the bodies in motion on the screen. I cried. Maybe it was my bare emotional state brought on by too many whiskeys the night before. No. It was moving. Ragnar said to me that he didn’t want to sound cocky but he thought they made a great film. I totally agree. Go and see it. You will see nothing like it for the rest of the year. And next, this one is almost over. Our humanity is revealed by that which we seek out and produce as entertainment. The context of that changes just as we do. Looking back says so much about what we are, what we are capable of and where we have come from.
Posted November 7, 2015