From Iceland — Beyond Analysis: A Screenplay By The Prime Ministry

Beyond Analysis: A Screenplay By The Prime Ministry

Published July 17, 2015

Beyond Analysis: A Screenplay By The Prime Ministry
Haukur Már Helgason
Photo by
Lóa Hjálmtýsdóttir


On a cloudy but windless afternoon, six men and two women stand on the pavement in front of the House of Government (HoG).

One of the men is easily identified as Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson (PM). He is in his late thirties, tall, chubby, boyish. The other five men (M2–M6), aged 33 to 64, remain unidentified. They all wear black suits, except M2, sporting a black fleece sweater over his shirt and tie. One of the men, M4, wears a coat over his suit.

The two women present (F1 and F2) are ca. 30 and 50 years old, respectively. They both wear traditional national attire: skirt, vest, hat, etc., in black, white and platinum.

All facing HoG, more or less, these eight people awkwardly mumble and chuckle, somewhat like kids on a school outing. They express anticipation. When not chuckling, the men keep smiling.

No police are present. No decoration is seen or anything else to indicate an official ceremony. The surrounding streets, revealed in background, are unusually empty for the time of day. A hundred metres away, by conference hall Harpa, the nation’s flag has been raised. Between Harpa and HoG, an empty stage faces Arnarhóll, indicating upcoming or bygone celebrations. Dispersed, one by one, a few people drift up and down Bankastræti, some carrying f lags, balloons or candies, indicating that the date is in fact June 17th, Icelandic National Day.

Some twenty members of the public have stopped by outside HoG, a haphazard audience to whatever might be going on there.

After hanging around for a while, PM and M2 gesture towards the concrete fence on the left side of the steps leading to the building’s entrance, while mumbling indistinct directions to F1 and F2.

Apparently following the men’s directions, F1 approaches the fence and bends down. In one swift, synchronised movement, all the men, including the PM, raise their smartphones, each proceeding to finger their screens while aiming the phones’ cameras at the woman. Under these watchful eyes of the still smiling men, she starts peeling a black plastic cover from a plaque on the fence.

M6 moves closer to the woman and the fence, where he kneels down, smiling, while keeping his camera fixed at F1.

(Still smiling, intonates as if speaking to a child:)
“Look here and smile.”

F1 follows M6’s directions, looks towards his phone and smiles, while she continues to peel off the plastic. M2 feigns laughter. Already bending, the woman now kneels down, to peel off the last remains of plastic.

We see the plaque, which reads:



M3–M6 stand outside HoG, each aiming his phone at the entrance. PM stands there too, but has given his phone a rest, while coughing.

Screenplay 2

M2 stands on the top of portable aluminium stairs, right by the door, peeling the plastic off another plaque. F2 stands on the ground next to him, holding the stairs.

As before, some twenty members of the public hang around on the pavement in front of the building, observing the scene. Otherwise, the streets remain mostly devoid of traffic.

As M2 peels away, the plaque is revealed: it’s the republic’s coat of arms. When PM finishes coughing, he raises his phone again, and aims the camera at the entrance, as M3–M6 have done all along. The men mumble, chuckle and smile. F2 extends her hand to offer assistance to M2.

An offscreen shout from a passerby makes the men glance sideways:

(Shouts:) “Inept government!”

While looking in this sole demonstrator’s general direction, the men hold their phones in front of them, still aimed at the entrance —all except the PM who now casually holds his phone by his side, while cowboyishly resting his left hand on his belt buckle. They all keep smiling.

After some hesitation, still aiming his phone at the entrance, still smiling, M4 looks to his side and shouts back at the unseen protester:

“Celebrating, are we?”

The other men chuckle.

PM puts left hand in pocket, then looks over his shoulder, at the public. He still smiles. He takes up his phone again, bites his lower lip, moves forward and starts shooting again: first the ceremony, in unison with the other men; then he turns around and aims the phone’s camera at the public.


F1 and F2 now stand on the pavement again, at either side of the first plaque revealed. The portable stairs now rest against HoG’s front door. The women wear smiles as the men have done all along. The men keep their phones extended in front of them, aimed at the women and the plaque.

“And then on to the next one …”

The group moves from the left to the right side of the steps, where another plaque remains wrapped in plastic.

Two boys aged 8-10 have joined the men, as has an unidentified adult male (M7), wearing a sports jacket. Other bystanders remain at a certain distance but, wearing colourful anoraks, backpacks and camera-bags, they are now, by and large, identifiable as tourists.

F2 bends down to unwrap the third plaque. As before, PM and M2–M6 aim their cameras at her, as does the newcomer, M7. Persistently smiling, PM bites his lower lip again.

Phone extended in front of him, M6 kneels, again, by the side of F2, apparently to get a better angle on the scene.

“Will you look up for me, over here?”

F2 does so, while peeling off the plastic. The men all chuckle.

While documenting the peeling, M2 comments:

“This is thoroughly fixed. … You want scissors?”

The men chuckle again.

(To the men:)
“Hey, should we sing a song, then?”

The men don’t pay notice, still focused on F2’s efforts. In the background, F1 turns her back on the ceremony, quietly strolling around. M4 pockets his phone.

(To woman:)
“Do it rough, this time?”

The men mumble and chuckle some more. F2 then finishes unwrapping the plaque. She steps aside, grinning, and gestures to the plaque as if mimicking an imaginary brass band’s “ta-da!” PM claps and looks around. No one else claps. Someone says bravo. All smile.


Five of the men, including PM, have now moved back closer to the building’s entrance, towards which they stand staring. Having strolled away, earlier, F1 is nowhere to be seen. All the others are present.

This time, only one of the men, M3, watches through his phone. PM smiles while holding his phone casually in his right hand, his left hand again resting on his belt buckle. He seems very content. Standing next to PM, M3 seems somewhat confused by his phone. He points and drags at its screen while keeping it extended in front of him. PM pockets his phone.

As before, M2 has climbed the aluminium stairs, doing something with the national insignia above the entrance. F2 holds the stairs.

M4, M5 and M6 all unpocket their phones and take another aim at the entrance and the ceremony, smiling, as M3 has been doing all along.

M2 climbs down the stairs.

“Gonna smile for us here?”

The men chuckle.

The coat of arms above the entrance has now been fully uncovered. M2 and F2 stand on the doorstep, smiling at the men, who smile back at them and to themselves.

Seemingly light-hearted, PM hops a couple of steps towards the entrance.


All those present are in the same positions as before. The stairs have been moved aside, leaving only M2 and F2 by the door, where they stand and smile vigorously.

M3, M4, M5 and M6 all keep their phones aimed at the entrance. PM has given his phone another rest, and moved one step closer to the door, where he takes his position between M2 and F2. After a moment’s silence, the people open their mouths and we realise that we have entered the middle of a singalong:

“Shoot up a flag …”

Their singing is hesitant, somewhat mumbled, and they look at each other as if to verify something, perhaps the lyrics. Regardless, they all smile.

“Bright sounds the brass …”

M4 and M5 pocket their phones, as if to participate more thoroughly in the singing.

“Let’s march to Þingvellir and reinforce our vows.
Forwards, forwards,
never accede.
Forwards, forwards,
men and nation alike.”

That last line was faulty. PM hesitates at the beginning of the following lines, as if he were waiting for the others to remind him of the lyrics. He stares at the ground, then sideways. Even while waiting for the lyrics to be untangled, he smiles to himself, apparently content.

“Let’s join our forces,
let’s join in peace,
let’s fight to victory for our nation.”

As the song ends, two or three of the people awkwardly mumble:

“Woo-hoo …”

Screenplay 3

PM chuckles, others follow suit. Offscreen, an unidentified male voice shouts undecipherable cheers, to which the males smile. Still standing on the doorstep, F2 takes two or three dance steps, indicating fun.

As the males start to disperse, mumbling, F2 takes six more dance steps, raunchier than before, revealing that she knows how to party. She grins at the men. They grin back. At the same time, PM steps towards the door, takes his position on the doorstep between M2 and F2, where he shakes hands with M2. The handshake is followed by more handshakes between the men, while F2 turns her back and walks inside.




Editor’s note: this is an actual thing that happened. Watch the director’s cut below!


Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!

Show Me More!