Hannes Þór Halldórsson’s first feature is making waves on the worldwide stage
It’s Tuesday night, but the arthouse cinema Bíó Paradís is packed—mostly with loud teenagers. They’re cheering and whistling, and something tells me they’re not seeing this movie for the first time. Before the lights dim for the film to begin, a short teaser is shown: “I’m not the best goalkeeper in the world, and fair to say I’m not the world’s best director. But I’m the only one who has done both.” For better or worse, I’m already hooked.
From saving goals to scoring a debut film
Hannes Þór Halldórsson has mostly made headlines at home and abroad for preventing Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi from scoring at the 2018 World Cup. Yes, you read it right, this Icelandic film director played as a goalkeeper for the Icelandic national football team. “Football gave me unbelievable adventures and brought me to places that I would never have been without it,” says Hannes. “I’m lucky to have two jobs, and both of them are my passion.”
Having previously worked on a number of commercials, Hannes released his first feature film ‘Leynilögga’ (‘Cop Secret’) last year. “I was still a professional football player while we made the movie,” he says. At least half of the filming was done during the football season. Shot in just an incredibly short period of just 20 days, ‘Leynilögga’ then spent almost a year in post-production.
An Icelandic take on the cop comedy
‘Leynilögga’ is not your average Icelandic movie. For one, it’s an action comedy with dramatic music and Hollywood-style (but still budget) special effects. The satire that runs through the movie is definitely on point. You don’t have to live in Iceland long to appreciate the joke about the rivalry between cops from Reykjavík and Garðabær. “‘Hot Fuzz’ was definitely a movie that I had in mind,’” says Hannes. “There’re lots of movies that we borrow ideas from. I’m not shy about that.”
The film also skewers the typical masculinity police are often depicted as embodying—in ‘Leynilögga’ cops can be emotional, and queer. “We wanted to treat the core elements of the movie with respect and with some seriousness, even though this is a ridiculous or maybe crazy movie, in many ways,” shares Hannes.
“It’s actually a really cheap movie,” he says. “It’s a low-budget movie, even by Icelandic standards. Everybody working on it had to give more to the movie than they were getting paid for and really put their heart and soul into it.” He continues: “I was trying to make it look as big as possible and have a feel that you wouldn’t have seen in an Icelandic movie before.”
Best European Comedy
“It is a really big deal. I’m absolutely ecstatic,” Hannes says about ‘Leynilögga’s nomination. “The movie has done things we never expected. It was always meant for the Icelandic market. But we really made it with passion and poured ambition and love into it. We gave it everything we had.” He adds: “I think that’s giving back now, because the movie has something obviously that goes a bit further than only the Icelandic shores.”
Having premiered at Locarno Film Festival ‘Leynilögga’ has travelled to festivals around the world, receiving international acclaim. “It’s been surprising us for two years,” Hannes says. “Being nominated [for the European Comedy award] is probably the ultimate surprise. We never expected anything like that.”
Other movies nominated in the same category include Fernando León De Aranoa’s ‘The Good Boss’ (‘El Buen Patrón’) and Catherine Corsini’s ‘The Divine’ (‘La Fracture’). “It’s a tough competition,” says Hannes.
European Film Awards are coming to Reykjavík on December 10, with the Gala Ceremony to take place at Harpa. Whether ‘Leynilögga’ takes the award home or not, Hannes thinks his first feature has been a success. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more. It has done a hundred times more than I expected it to do,” he says.
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