Times are tough. For many, human contact has been lost as people live governed by meeting restrictions for what already feels like an eternity. What does one need to stay hopeful? A reminder of what we are; a reminder that we are social beings who need others to help us in times of need.
What we need is a film like director Marteinn Þórsson’s newest effort ‘Þorpið í bakgarðinum’ (‘Backyard Village)—a work that, above all else, celebrates the goodness of human contact.
‘Þorpið í bakgarðinum’ follows Brynja (Laufey Elíasdóttir) and Mark (Tim Plester) who, after a chance meeting in a Hveragerði guesthouse, slowly form a bond over their shared past traumas. It’s a real and grounded look at how people deal with grief, set in a cold, harsh environment which, in itself, is a bit of a metaphor for how the characters feel with their trauma; alone, cold and hostile.
Physically, the film is centred around a guesthouse—which the director actually owns—where both main characters are staying in an effort to escape their troubles. We follow them on visits to nature, sit with them outside late at night and see them at their lowest, allowing us to connect with them at the same time as they connect with each other.
“The idea was to make a low-budget movie with what we already had, so the guesthouse was a good start,” Marteinn says. “But then, what is the story? Well, the story came about because Guðmundur Óskarsson, who wrote the film [and I] were talking about mental illness because there is a health centre in Hveragerði. I’ve been there myself; I went through a period of depression and rehab.”
“Now, I am a firm believer in human contact, in people talking, in dealing with things together,” he continues. “I like the phrase ‘Alone we go faster, but together we go further.’”
Keep on keeping on
The film thematically revolves around trauma and grief. It’s made clear early on in the story that the characters have something eating away at them inside—though giving any more away would spoil the plot. That said, watching them slowly come to terms with their pasts is fascinating. It must be said that both Laufey and Tim nail their roles, delivering genuine, real performances that make it easy to sympathise with their characters.
“I love working with [these] actors,” Marteinn remarks about their performances. “I loved rehearsing with both Laufey and Tim because it was so important for the film. Laufey was already perfect; she already felt like the character Brynja from the moment I met her. Tim told me that he was enjoying working on the film a lot. He said that when working on bigger films, you don’t get proper rehearsals. Without that rehearsal time, it’s hard to connect with other actors or actresses when filming.”
Would you imagine that?
In a work that is based around humans forming connections over shared problems, it’s safe to say that a viewer might assume the film was made in response to or inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic. Funnily enough, this was not the case.
“The entire film was shot prior to the pandemic,” Marteinn reveals. “We finished filming in late 2019, around December and then the pandemic started a few months later. It’s funny, because the theme of the movie became a lot stronger after the lockdown began.”
But even ignoring the pandemic, it’s hard not to connect with ‘Þorpið í bakgarðinum’. Most people have experienced some form of trauma in their life and the message this film sends is definitely one that more people should hear. Life isn’t about being alone; life is about building connections with others.
It’s human nature, after all.
‘Þorpið í bakgarðinum’ will be shown in BioParadis this summer.
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