Triumph At Tribeca: Dagur Kári's Advent Into Adulthood - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Triumph At Tribeca: Dagur Kári’s Advent Into Adulthood

Triumph At Tribeca: Dagur Kári’s Advent Into Adulthood

Haukur S. Magnússon
Photos by
Nicolai Hansen

Published May 8, 2015

When news came through late one Sunday night in April that filmmaker Dagur Kári Pétursson’s latest film ‘Fúsi’ (AKA ‘Virgin Mountain’) had triumphed at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, winning three of the main awards (best original screenplay, best narrative film and best leading actor), we of course tried calling him up for a quote or two, to include in a news story about the momentous occasion. We figured he could well take a break from partying with Robert De Niro to gloat in the media, even though it was the middle of the night.

When he finally answered, he seemed groggy and out of it, like he was just waking up. “Oh, what? No, I’m back home in Denmark,” he said, still half asleep. “I didn’t stay for the awards ceremony, I figured we didn’t stand a chance of winning anything.”

And this is telling. Arguably one of Iceland’s most prolific and successful young artists, Dagur Kári maintains a humble, unassuming stance, content to let his work speak for itself.

We start by discussing ‘Fúsi’, which I had viewed on my laptop shortly before our chat. I tell him that I liked it a lot, but that I would have enjoyed a chance to see it in the cinema….

How is it for a director? Do you like to see everything at the cinema? Or do you take in films on your TV, computer or smartphone, like the rest of us?

It differs [sighs]. I rarely have time to go to the movies these days, with a full time job and three children, so a trip to the theatre is a bit of a luxury. Because of this, I can’t really trust my judgement when it comes to films these days. I so rarely glimpse the big screen that I’ll erupt in goosebumps as soon as a Coca Cola ad starts running—so everything I see at the movies now is just great. I get the chills just from the adverts and previews.

I’ve always loved going to the movies. At one point, I’d go so often that I got extremely judgemental. I’d walk out after ten minutes if I didn’t like how things were going. Nowadays, I’m thankful just to catch a glimpse of the screen.

What drew you to the cinema to begin with?

I’d go with my parents as a kid, and later by myself. It was always an experience, but I suppose a certain turning point occurred when I was sixteen years old, at the 1989 Reykjavík Film Festival. I was completely enthralled with the whole roster and got sucked into it all. I’d buy a ticket to the three PM screening, and then hide out in the bathroom between films—I’d blag my way into the five, seven and nine PM screenings, spending entire days at the cinema. I’d see three or four movies every day; I think I saw everything at that festival. It was mainly stuff like Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Down By Law’, Wim Wenders’ ‘Der Himmel über Berlin’ and Aki Kaurismäki’s ‘Match Factory Girl’. There were a lot of good films showing, but those three are the ones that stick out in my mind.

That was the first time I saw filmmaking as a feasible path. I realized that it unified everything that I was interested in. I was playing in rock bands, I had been dabbling in writing, and I had gone through a whole photography phase… and I hadn’t quite determined what I wanted to bet on for the future. Then I had this revelation, that it all came together in film.

And that’s when you started furiously attending the movie theatre?

Yeah. It was the time for that, too. When you’re in your late teens, between sixteen and twenty, you’re kind of like a sponge. You suck in all this information, everything you get your hands on, building a stockpile. I’d read and watch and listen to everything I got my hands.

THAT ECSTATIC FEELING

I first encountered you through the music of Slowblow in the mid nineties, and have consequently always considered you a torchbearer for a certain lo-fi aesthetic, a more understated approach to art that stands in contrast with the IMAX school of high definition explosions. Is this something you connect with or have connected with?

Yeah, for sure. But, you know, being lo-fi has never been a specific goal. For me, the aesthetic maybe just evolved from having no money. Orri [Jónsson, Slowblow’s other half] and I recorded our first album on a four track tape machine and a single microphone… by the time we made the next one, we’d invested in an eight track recorder and a slightly more expensive microphone… whenever we had any money, we’d spend it on new equipment.

Truth be told, I’ve always had a bit of a gear fetish. I revere that ecstatic feeling you get when turning on an old guitar amp, that purring sound a camera makes when the film starts rolling… It’s that urge to create meeting that techno-fetishism. That was sort of a dealbreaker for me, and perhaps the main reason I didn’t take to writing as a profession—it wasn’t technical enough. I need to have my finger on some buttons, to experience this ecstatic feeling I relate to technology—especially vintage technology. Old machines, analogue, tube amplifiers and ancient instruments. Trying to charm the soul out of these old, weird machines, with their buzzing and the static and the clicks. We never tried to filter that out for our albums, we rather tried milking those sounds out of the equipment. They became the basis of our soundscapes. What others sought to filter out, we would emphasize that.

And are there any parallels to how you approach filmmaking, what kind of equipment you choose to work with… is there a texture you’re seeking with your films that maybe mirrors your approach to music?

Ehrm. Yeah. I’ve always been infatuated with the texture of film, and I’m rather sad that its era seems to be coming to an end, because it has this texture and depth that you don’t find in digital, a depth and character. I feel digital formats document light, but film, it kind of interprets it, there’s this interpretative element that’s lost when you move to digital.

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IMPOSSIBLE DREAMS

Making a film must be really difficult. There are so many people involved in the process, and it seems like so many factors need to be taken into consideration. It’s hard to imagine taking that first step. Did you ever think you’d get to do it?

I signed up for film school harbouring a dream that seemed so distant and absurd. I remember thinking that getting to make a film would be tantamount to winning the lottery ten times in a row… it just seemed crazy, you know, even the act of daring to imagine it could ever work out.

Then, for my graduation project, I made a film called ‘Lost Weekend’, which had a bit of success. It was surprisingly well received and made the festival rounds all over the world, winning a bunch of prizes. Which in turn helped me make my debut feature…

So because of ‘Lost Weekend’s success, you could convince people to invest in ‘Nói Albínói’ and have faith in you to make it?

Indeed, it was a major turning point, paving the way for various opportunities, enabling me to meet and get to know all kinds of people who then helped me realize ‘Nói Albínói’. The source material for Nói was something I’d carried around since I was sixteen… I already had a load of scenes and situations, so when I knew I had a real shot at making it, completing the script didn’t take long.

Wait, you started writing ‘Nói Albínói’ at age sixteen?

Just this character, Nói. He’d been with me for years. He was kind of a fantasy figure, a bit of an alter ego… well, not an alter ego, rather the opposite of myself, the opposite of who I was in my junior college years, at least. There were a lot of things I wanted to do at the time, or wished I could do, but didn’t have the courage to, so I relegated certain sides of myself into this character I called Nói. He predates any ideas I had of being a filmmaker—he could have turned into anything; a comic strip, a cartoon or a short story… Little by little, I amassed a bunch of situations and events connected to this character that I then used for the script.

So it’s a very personal film?

Yes, it’s a kind of a testament to what was going on in my head at that time, growing up and beyond.

THE FILM GODS

‘Nói’ was filmed in the northern Westfjords, where I hail from, in Ísafjörður and Bolungarvík. Watching the film, I felt few works of art better describe what it feels to grow up on the edge of nowhere. Was the location important to the film?

Yes. The isolation was important, and that feeling that you’re on the edge of the world. And all that snow. It was very important for the film, that everything be covered in snow.

I actually had no experience of small towns like that prior to making ‘Nói’. In fact, I had never been to the Westfjords before we filmed it. It was pure luck that we wound up there. We filmed it over one of those rare Icelandic winters where it barely snows at all. So we sort of made a bet, we counted on that if it would snow anywhere, it would be in the Westfjords. We made our decision to shoot there based solely on that assumption.

And then it turned out to fit so well...

We showed up and I instantly fell for the place. For the fjords and… it was kind of like it had been written specifically for that environment. Down to specific locations that the script described in detail, and I didn’t envision ever coming across…. I thought we’d have to build some of them in a studio. And then, we repeatedly just… encountered them. It happened time and time again, we would just walk right into the world that I had written.

It really felt like the film gods were on our team for that one. Indeed, it hadn’t snowed at all in the Westfjords that winter, so we were sort of blindly stepping into it. We just booked a camera crew and hoped for the best. The day we landed in Ísafjörður, it started snowing and it kept snowing constantly for the two weeks we were shooting the outdoor scenes. And that was the only snow we had in Iceland that winter. In a way, it felt meant to be.

I felt it was so nice how respectfully you depicted the small towns and its people, it steered clear of that grotesque, skewed image you’ll often come across when filmmakers tackle small-town Iceland. Very human. That’s maybe something that’s recurring in your art, this kind of respect or care for humans. Are you into people like that?

I quite enjoy studying people. The components that make up a character. I can’t deny it.

Falling in love with Gussi

So ‘Nói Albínói’ was about Nói, this fantasy side to yourself. Then, ‘Fúsi’ is also named after its main character. However, he’s far removed from Nói. Does he perhaps represent a different side to you? How did he come to be?

The making of Fúsi, the character, was a process that’s both complicated and simple. It started with me falling in love with Gussi [actor Gunnar Jónsson] when I saw him in [celebrated Icelandic skit show] ‘Fóstbræður’. I immediately had the sense that he was a total genius—he has this on-screen presence that’s just completely unique.

So, I fantasized about seeing him in something beyond just serving as a sidekick in a comedy show, I wanted to see him doing a massive leading role in a dramatic film. This has been on my mind for years. In the meanwhile, after Nói, I made films in Denmark and New York. After the latter, ‘The Good Heart’, I kind of burned out for a while. I just lost all desire to make movies.

I was planning to do something else. While attempting to explore different avenues, I found myself in Keflavík, waiting for a plane. And I’m sort of looking out the window, and I see these small vehicles skirting around the airplanes, bringing the luggage or whatever. They have these tiny cars that kind of look like toy cars, and in my mind an image just pops out, Gussi riding one of those. And that becomes the core metaphor for the film, the story of an adult that hasn’t quite cut the umbilical cord and left the world of childhood.

As I awaited the plane, a simple version of the story lined up in my mind. So you could say it just came to me. But, then, it’s complicated, because a character or a story doesn’t just come from one direction. For me, they are an interplay of everything I’ve thought and pondered for years, all kinds of ideas I’ve had aligning and turning into something new.

You assume many roles as a filmmaker, from writing the script and then directing it, to creating the score. You’re basically realizing an idea that starts off in your head, bringing it to life…

Well, directors are very different, but for me it’s always been about the whole package. What drew me to film in the first place was how the art form combines everything I’m interested in. For me, the screenwriting process is just as important as… you know, the shooting, and then the editing… and then, making the music. They all form equal parts of the whole.

Scoring the films is actually one of my favourite things about the process, it’s kind of like enjoying dessert after a good meal. Everything’s ready, but you can sort of use the music to amplify emotions and moods that are already present. The film is basically ready, the stress is over, and you get to play around with it and have some fun.

You make the music with your partner Orri from Slowblow, right? So what, do you two just sit down with some guitars and beer and roll the film through, jamming over it?

No. We work separately, we never write together. I usually start writing while I’m in the editing process, I think it’s fun to do those two together, so the music can also affect how I edit the movie. We’re not making music for a film that’s been locked, we sort of meld our tunes to the film.

That seems like a fun process. Do you think you’ll make more records as Slowblow?

Well, we haven’t made pop music in more than a decade. We’ve just made film music, mainly for my movies, but also for a few other projects. Sitting down with the intent of writing verses and choruses has been a distant idea. But it’ll probably come back at some point. We’ll make some horrible middle-aged record when we’re pushing fifty, I’m sure. Something totally dated and hopeless. I’m certain it will happen.

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EMOTIONAL

Are you saying old people can’t make good music? Is that different with film?

No, I don’t think so. I’ve often thought about it. You know, considering how powerful a medium pop music is, it’s odd that it’s usually made by these twenty-year old buffoons. Artists generally don’t peak until they reach forty, that’s when they’ve had a bit of experience and attained some depth, when they should be able to say something worthwhile.

I think pop music and film, they’re really rather banal art forms that still have an incredible access to people’s emotional life. Yet they operate by these formulas. A pop song is always just a chorus, verse, chorus verse, and then the c-part in the middle, then the chorus is repeated twice and the song is over.

And film is a little like that, too, you have the three acts, and then at some points there will be these turning points in the plot. You’re basically always listening to the same song, watching the same movie, yet the possibilities seem endless and they’re, like, directly linked to people’s emotional life.

This emotional connection seems important to you. Is that your main reason for making films and music?

Yes, I think so. What I find fascinating about music is how it bypasses the brain and sort of has a direct passage to the heart and the emotions. And, then, what I think is unique to film is how it can engage a viewer in both a humorous and melancholic way.

In all my movies, I’m basically trying to fine-tune this cocktail of laughter and sadness. I think it’s really fascinating, being able to go to the movies and both laugh your ass off and at the same time be deeply moved.

These days, I find that films are all too often either/or. The market calls for a pure division: either you go to the movies to laugh, or to cry. It’s rare that the two go together. And that’s the combination I find fascinating. When you get people laughing, they’ve opened up and bared themselves in a way, which then grants direct access to their core.

This division, is it a recent development? As an art form, film has been optimized through the years, with investors seeking maximum bang for their buck. Has that ability to meld and mutate been bred out of filmmaking in your opinion? Is there less room for experimentation and exploration?

Yes, I think that’s absolutely been the case. The call for standardization and compartmentalization grows stronger by the day. However, this is a trend that will at some point will hit a wall, and hopefully shatter. It already seems to be happening in television.

As an art form, TV has always been looked down upon, as a kind of banal and cheap version of cinema, but now it’s become the main driver. It’s where all the innovation is happening. It has managed to break free, and it’s maybe even influencing filmmaking in a way. By now, TV has reached a point where it can operate in a similar way to a novel, which cinema has never managed; mastering this multilayered, multi-voiced, complex approach to storytelling.

Cinema is so limited. You basically have 90-120 minutes to tell a story, and, again, the form works like a pop song. If the chorus or the guitar solo comes in at the wrong time, you sense that there’s something wrong. A film’s plot has to follow a certain curve that TV series have managed to dissolve. All of the sudden, you have sixty some hours to observe characters grow and operate. And I find that incredibly fascinating.

What are you watching at the moment?

I haven’t really sunk myself into these dramatic series, like ‘Breaking Bad’. I’ve made a few attempts, and I always sort of shy away. With TV, I find humour is so important, and if it’s not there, I get a little impatient. So I mostly watch sitcoms… That whole sitcom format—where you’re stuck in the same environment with the same characters, and nobody learns from their mistakes, and no matter what goes on you’re always at the starting point in the next episode—that really appeals to me. In a way, I find my movies have more to do with sitcoms than most modern cinema, even though I’m working within the cinematic structure. With me, it’s not the plot that matters so much as the characters and the situations they are faced with. When I think about it, what’s influenced me most are sitcoms like The Simpsons and Cheers and Seinfeld…

NOTHING MAKES SENSE

Your first film was in Icelandic, then the next one was in Danish and the one after that was in English, and now you’re back to Icelandic. Is there a difference?

I really enjoy language in general, studying the nuances of how people interact in different languages. In many ways, it’s easier for me to work in the context of a foreign language, because it grants that outsider’s perspective, allowing me to spot things that native speakers are maybe blind to.

However, the main difference between working in these different places lies in the energy and the organization. You’ll find quite a different energy in Iceland than in, say, Denmark or the States. For instance, there’s a lot more organization in Denmark than in Iceland… actually, most places are more organized than Iceland. But the energy levels balance it out.

Iceland has that… what’s unique about Icelanders and what everyone keeps trying to explain, without ever succeeding, is that there’s this sort of boundless creative energy. In a country where nothing makes sense, you feel like everything’s possible. And in Denmark, it’s quite the reverse. The creative energy sort of dies as it passes through the organizational structure. At the same time, though, you at least get paid for every hour you work.

The Danes’ realist outlook perhaps forces you to be organized, but at the same time prevents you from aiming as high as you would…

Exactly. It would be fun you could somehow join these qualities, if they could meet in the middle, but instead there are extremes in each direction.

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ICELAND AS PROSTITUTE

People seem really worried about Icelandic filmmaking at the moment, due to funding cuts and whatnot… what are your thoughts on this?

The environment is a little too unstable. It’s too dependent on whim, who’s running the country at a given time, and that’s not a very good environment for an industry to operate within. There needs to be some stability, some sort of base understanding that this is important and that—for it to keep afloat—there needs to be a certain support that is not subject to fancy, that can’t be diminished without notice.

When the support for the industry goes down forty to seventy percent in a year, it creates an absurd working environment. Nobody imagines that the National Theatre can in one year stage a single play, and then fourteen in the next.

Is there such a thing as “Icelandic filmmaking?” How would you describe it?

Yes and no. There are a lot of great filmmakers working in Iceland at the moment, each with their own strengths, and the films they make are very different in style and emphasis. Of course, there are certain elements that tie their different projects together, mostly that they are being made in this country, by this nation.

The country itself has been sold to international filmmakers—to Hollywood—in a kind of exploitative way in recent years. Iceland’s landscapes and sceneries seem to be popping up in every other blockbuster… Do you have an opinion?

Well, I don’t know. I can’t really say I have an opinion one way or the other. But in general, Icelanders have this tendency to sell themselves short.

Yeah. Iceland is a bit of a whore. At the same time, it’s like, Miss Universe. This is perhaps best displayed in how we’ve sold our energy through the years, to heavy industry megacorporations, and this is reflected maybe in other areas… It’s kind of like Miss World saying, you know, “I just had to resort to prostitution, because I couldn’t think of anything else.”

I think it’s kind of stuck to Iceland, this idea that we’re ready to sell for really cheap, to the lowest bidder. We should strive to be more selective in choosing our bedfellows, and, you know, we shouldn’t always sell to the lowest bidder. Maybe we should start believing that the quality of what we have to offer should enable us to charge a higher price… Maybe I’m on thin ice here…

This is certainly a topic worthy of discussion, and perhaps something we are about to have to deal with, or should be dealing with in any case. The consequences of how we’re treating the environment and how we’re operating with regards to tourism and the like. As editor of a tourist publication, I’m painfully aware of how we’re marketing ourselves, and who we’re marketing ourselves to…

Exactly. Instead of shaping a policy and determining how we want things to evolve, we’re always ready to swallow whatever’s on offer, whatever’s handed to us. Icelanders have always been this way, if someone offers us five hundred krónur today, we don’t care that means we’ll get a bill for five thousand krónur at the end of the week.

That’s the kind of shortsightedness I’m talking about, this lack of foresight, and pride. It’s absurd that we’re not taking a moment to define how we want to go on about things.

Perhaps it’s connected to the fact that we’ve usually had to get while the getting’s good, because nature is so unpredictable?

Yeah, it’s kind of like that. This tendency to fill the pantry while we can. This sentiment runs very deep in Icelanders, this shortsightedness, but it also has its positive aspects. Planning three moves ahead, we’d never make a single movie in Iceland. There is a certain energy there, just going for it and dealing with the problems later.

A HORRID SITUATION

You currently head the Director’s Programme at your old school, The National Film School of Denmark. How did that come about?

Well, I’m good friends with the dean. And he got in touch and offered me the job, and it came about at a time where I felt ready to try new things and a new environment. Living in Iceland had gotten a little heavy, and the idea of trying something new for a while felt liberating, so I jumped at the opportunity. And yeah, it’s been very educational, returning as a teacher.

How exactly did living in Iceland get heavy?

Well, it’s that… you know, there’s a really sort of horrid situation in Iceland, especially in politics.

Are you a political refugee, then?

Well, no. I suppose I’m some sort of a refugee. One of the benefits of living in a foreign country is that you can allow yourself a certain irresponsibility… I don’t follow politics here at all. I just read the two back pages of the newspapers, you know, the gossip and culture, that’s it. And that’s a rather comfortable position to be in.

Do you consider yourself a political artist?

No, in no way. Politics have never been part of my creative process. I am first and foremost concerned with people and the circumstances they find themselves in. And if something political or some level of social commentary slides in with what I make, that’s happening on a purely subconscious level.

What about your career? Where do you see yourself taking it? Would you be into tackling a huge Hollywood blockbuster?

I can’t say that’s been a goal of mine. However, I must admit, I’m in my forties now, and shit broke. So, for the first time in my life, I feel like I could be into doing some sell-out project.

Have you gotten any tempting offers?

Well, there’s a little heat after the film won all these awards at Tribeca. Agents and producers have been getting in touch and whatnot. There’s a little buzz going around at the moment, which might turn into something. Then again, it might fizzle out, as it tends to.

Film Review: A Dark Horse With A Good Heart – ‘Fúsi’ (“Virgin Mountain”)
“As the film draws to a close, one starts to fear that Dagur will mess it up in the Icelandic way, but he manages to cling to a perfect palette right up to the end. Fúsi eventually prevails, even if just a little bit, not by winning all his battles but simply by having a good heart. In the age of superheroes, that’s a refreshing thought for us mortals.”

 

PLAIN, SINCERE

Speaking of Tribeca, you received three award there, for best original screenplay, best narrative film and then Gunnar won best lead actor. Did you go into the festival expecting such accolades?

No. I have to admit, I was completely taken aback by all those awards. To be honest, I hadn’t even entertained the possibility of us winning anything at all. I didn’t bother looking into what kinds of awards they were giving out, or who would be on the jury or anything. I went to New York to open the film, basically to have a bit of fun and enjoy the city. ‘Fúsi’ is kind of sincere and plain, you know, and I was certain it wasn’t the type of film that could catch the eyes of a jury. So it was a pleasant surprise, that they would deem it good enough to win all these awards.

You weren’t there to accept any of them, though?

No, unfortunately I’d gone home by the time they were given out. Like I said, I didn’t expect anything to come of it, other than a fun trip to New York. So I missed my chance to accept an award from Robert De Niro, which I must admit would have been thrilling. I sent a little thank you video instead.

That same week, the film was also awarded at a Danish film festival…

Yes, we got the audience award at CPH PIX in Copenhagen… it was a good week.

Is getting awards like these important?

Yeah, it can be very beneficial for a film, especially in cases like these, when we get three big awards at the same festival. It has a an exponential effect with regards to attention, which in turn helps getting it out there. The good thing about Tribeca, we’re hoping that it will raise attention in the US, which is a notoriously hard market to penetrate. So we’re crossing our fingers that we might score a distribution deal over there.

LORDS OF VOMIT

Anyway. Are you going to see the new Avengers movie?

Nope.

Don’t like superheroes, huh?

Nope. There are two things that I absolutely loathe in film: realism and fantasy.

How does that work out?

For me, the magic lies somewhere between the two. Stuff like ‘Lord Of The Rings’ just makes me vomit. I just can’t. It’s same with films that are hyper-realistic. Those are also really off-putting to me. There’s… I hate using the word ‘poetic’, but there’s something there… you can lift reality to a higher plane without going all the way towards fantasy. That is where I like to position myself.

Who do you make your films for?

Uhm… an audience? See, I can’t get up and give a speech, I can’t really tell a joke, but through films and other artistic ventures, I can have a venue to make people laugh, and to touch them.

Dagur Kári: Filmography

By Valur Gunnarsson

Dagur first made a name for himself around the year 2000 with shorts like ‘Old Spice’ (not about Spice Girls’s father), ‘Lost Weekend’ (not about vampires) and ‘Líkið í lestinni’ (“The Body On The Train”—actually about a dead body in the backseat), a segment of the anthology ‘Villiljós’, which is inexplicably known as ‘Dramarama’ in English. But it was his first feature that was to firmly place him on Iceland’s movie map.

‘Nói Albínói’ (‘Nói The Albino’—2003)

One of the most impressive debuts in Icelandic film history. More than that, it could be credited for rejuvenating Icelandic cinema for a new century, which went through a rather meagre ‘90s after a flying start in the ‘80s). Dagur seems to (re)discover a particularly Icelandic way of telling a story on screen, the Westfjords’ landscape serving as the main character along with the films titular albino. Everyone here dreams of running off to Reykjavík—an oft repeated theme in Icelandic cinema—while unbeknownst to them, everyone in Reykjavík dreams of running off to Copenhagen. Or New York. Or somewhere.

‘Voksne mennesker’ (‘Dark Horse’—2005)

Having made a uniquely Icelandic film, Dagur’s next logical step was to go to Denmark to make a particularly Danish film. The director had gotten his film degree over there, and he was able to get top line actors such as Jacob Cedergren (later seen in Vinterberg’s ‘Submarino’) and Nicholas Bro to star in this story of refusing to grow up and choosing friendship over love (sort of like a bromance take on ‘Frozen’). But this is really only a good Danish movie rather than a great Icelandic one. Bro’s character reminds one of a younger Fúsi though, an indicator of things to come.

‘The Good Heart’ (2009)

Having conquered our old colonial capital, Dagur headed off to the world city of New York and made a film set in a local institution, the neighbourhood bar. Dagur’s band Slowblow is very inspired by Tom Waits at times, who was originally set to star in ‘The Good Heart’, and perhaps this was meant as a live action version of a Waits song. Brian Cox works well as Tom’s replacement bartender, while Paul Dano holds up his end of things. However, the end result is charming in parts rather than a truly great whole. Couldn’t this have been set in a bar in the Westfjords instead?

‘Fúsi’ (‘Virgin Mountain’—2015)

Dagur was now finally ready to make an Icelandic film again, and it’s a treat. The titular character is an instantly classic persona, that guy you sometimes see in the background as the butt of a joke but is here given his own film. The story is told with sensitivity as well as humour, with each performance wonderfully understated. By now, we know most of the constituent parts of the Dagur-verse. Bonds between men tend to be the strongest while relationships with women are fleeting, everyone dreams of getting away to somewhere and growing up is hard to do. Dagur himself is by now a fully mature filmmaker, and has never been better.