Hrafn Jónsson's Top 5 Icelandic Movies - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Hrafn Jónsson’s Top 5 Icelandic Movies

Published November 11, 2016

Photos by
Art Bicnick

For a certain part of the population, Hrafn Jónsson’s furious and hilarious political screeds have become their political voice. His writings, published first in Icelandic news-mag Kjarninn and soon coming out in book form happened in part by accident. Hrafn, a film editor by trade, used the off moments while rendering his work to make mostly political comedy in image and text to post on his Facebook wall, to amuse himself and his friends. This took off in a major way, and after accumulating a large number of FB followers, he was cajoled into his current post at Kjarninn. Since we’re all sick of politics right now, we asked Hrafn to go back to his roots, and tell us about his five favorite films.

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Hrafninn Flýgur
This 1985 viking movie Kurosawa knockoff is criminally underrated. Yes, the acting is “creative” in parts. Yes, the soundtrack only consists of one melody played over and over again exclusively on pan flute. But it has more true grit than any other Icelandic movie. At its heart a simple revenge story of a boy who witnesses his parents being murdered and his sister kidnapped. His whole life builds towards this inevitable moment of vengeance that gets muddied by the reality of family and loyalty. No simple answers or clear truths. Also some super-badass throwing knives.

Sódóma Reykjavík
I think every western culture has their own version of The Big Lebowski; like an ancient folktale being whispered in the wind. Here the MacGuffin isn’t a room-tying rug but a TV remote control. Axel’s mother loses the TV remote so he must go on a quest into the not-so-scary Icelandic criminal underworld to get it back. Like with many great comedies it’s not really about the plot, but the characters; the oldest form of comedy is watching a couple of idiots who think they’re smart trying to figure stuff out.

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Rokk í Reykjavík

This 1982 documentary about the booming early 80s punk scene is great because it manages to perfectly freeze a moment in time. It has so much texture and dimension just in the way it encapsulates a certain ambiance for me as a viewer who didn’t actually witness the history it is telling. It still keeps drawing a lot of viewers because you get unique window into the start of the career of a 15 year old Björk, but to me the most interesting parts are all the kids who are playing rock and roll, who maybe kind of suck but are empowered by the punk scene. Also just the unbridled enthusiasm of young teens sniffing glue. Must have been some magical years.

Benjamín Dúfa
A terribly tragic drama masquerading as a children’s adventure movie. It’s based on a novel that, like the movie, lulled me into a false sense of security before tearing me to shreds. It’s a story of a group of boys who start a knights order to protect their neighbourhood from bullies and wrongdoers. It’s all fun and games before something terrible happens and we are all forced to contemplate what it all means in the end. A great story that proves that children really enjoy being mentally devastated.

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Blóðhefnd (honorable mention)
A terrible movie. Terrible acting, mostly terrible cinematography, a dumb screenplay. But I love it. It’s a complete love you can only have for pure, un-ironic B movies. A man with a “particular set of skills” returns home after a 7 year absence only to find his brother tangled into a human trafficking criminal organization. What follows can only be described as a karate-based revenge thriller where our protagonist leaves behind a bloody trail of roundhousekicked bodies. It’s obviously made for no money, but with pure passion. It honestly harkens back to the mid-80s Van Damme knockoffs like American Ninja; terribly constructed films that has such magical kitsch value that it overcame any other shortcomings it might have. It’s bad, fun, cheap and made with nothing but pure passion.

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