Iceland, a Land of Fire and Ice, was the last European country to be settled over a thousand years ago by Vikings from Norway. It is a country of geothermal springs, geysers, mudpools, volcanoes, glaciers, avalanches, waterfalls, fjords, and midnight sun. The country enjoys a high standard of living, comparable to that of the United States and the quality of housing is very high. Reykjavik, ‘Smoky Bay’, is the northernmost capital in the world, home to about 60% of Icelanders.
There is continuous daylight in June, July and August and a dark period from mid-November to February that only provides 3-4 hours of sunshine a day. Residents enjoy long twilights in early spring and late autumn. The nightlife in Reykjavik is legendary as hordes of young people overtake the streets in a ritual known as “runtur.” Clubs, such as the Hard Rock Café, are popular with the young residents who work hard and play hard.
Icelanders are well-educated and well-traveled. Most speak English and Danish in addition to other languages. Icelandic is the national language based on the original languages of the Norse settlers. An ancient tradition of deriving their last name from the first name of their father, called the patronymic system, is used in naming children, required by law. This results in Icelanders being referred to by their full names. Women keep their own names even if they marry.
The international word ‘geyser’ comes from the Icelandic word “geysir” and their most famous geyser is in south Iceland — Haukadalur – spouting a water column to a height of about 180 feet. Strokkur Geysir spouts every few minutes. The largest hot springs is Deildartunguhver that flows 40 gallons of boiling water per second.
Glaciers account for over 11.5% of the country’s terrain with the Vatna glacier in southeast Iceland measuring 3.240 square miles and reaching a thickness of 3,000 feet. In the deep snow of the steep mountainous terrain of the northwest, north and east, avalanches have destroyed farms and killed people. Jules Verne’s novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth, was set on Iceland’s Snaefells Peninsula, known for Snaefellsjokul, a spectacular volcano crowned by a glacier.
Fish and fish products constitute more than 70% of Iceland’s exports, plentiful because of the continental shelf around Iceland where the Gulf Stream and the Arctic meet creating favorable conditions for marine life. The main catches are cod, haddock, saithe, redfish, herring and capelin. Icelanders enjoy many seafood dishes and in many Icelandic homes the Sunday meal consists of a roast leg of lamb served with caramelized potatoes and brown sauce, green peas, pickled red cabbage, rhubarb jam and sometime a green salad. (http://www.ired.com)Cinema of Iceland
Iceland counts only 300.000 inhabitants. The North Atlantic island has, however, produced more than 80 feature films since 1980. And not just for the domestic audience but also for the international, which especially has noticed the tragi-comic and bittersweet outsider films by Fridrik Thór Fridriksson (e.g. Children of nature, Cold Fever, Devil’s Island, Angels of the Universe, Niceland), Baltasar Kormákur (101 Reykjavík, The Sea, A Little Trip to Heaven) and Dagur Kári (Nói albínói, Dark Horse). After a brief overview of Iceland ’s film history this lecture will focus on these directors and the present development in Icelandic cinema in relation to how it reflects the impact of modernization and globalization in a small nation that is usually associated with its sagas, its history and folklore as well as its breathtaking landscapes. (dogma95.media.ku.dk)The History of Icelandic cinema
The history of Icelandic cinema begins in 1906, when a three-minute documentary was shot in Iceland by Alfred Lind. The first movie theatre opened in Reykjavík in 1906. Initially, most movie production in Iceland was foreign, largely Scandinavian, using the Iceland landscape for filming Icelandic stories and plays.
101 Reykjavík (2000)
The first and only all-Icelandic fiction film made during the silent film era was the short The Adventures of Jon and Gvendur (Ævintýri Jóns og Gvendar), made in 1923, although several documentaries were made, both foreign and domestic, during that period. The Icelandic documentary film Moving Pictures (Ísland í lifandi myndum) was released in 1925. The first color talkie in Icelandic Between Mountain and Shore (Milli fjalls og fjöru) came out in 1948. All three were made by Loftur Guðmundsson. From a similar period, filmmaker Óskar Gíslason can also be described as a pioneer of the Icelandic cinema.
Other key films from the “early period” of Icelandic cinema are for example Girl Gogo (79 af stöðinni) by Erik Balling (1962) and Murder Story (Morðsaga) by Reynir Oddsson (1977), a Chabrolesque thriller and a prologue to things to come.
1979 marks the beginning of regular film production in Iceland. That same year The Icelandic Film Fund (now The Icelandic Film Centre) started operation and the first film to receive support from the fund, Land and Sons (Land og synir) by Ágúst Guðmundsson, premiered on January 25th 1980. Since then we have produced over 100 feature films, i.e. almost three a year on average, but later years have shown a steady increase.
Children of Nature (1991)
Since 1979 a considerable amount of production costs has come from abroad, not least from Germany, where producers and TV-stations have shown a lot of interest and goodwill all along. Co-productions with foreign investors have become more and more common. This has, in a way, influenced the content and style of some of the films, as foreign staff and foreign languages have made their mark.
The Seagull’s Laughter (2001)
The majority of Icelandic films deal with contemporary stories and subjects, albeit not often in a very political sense. Themes have quite often touched upon the contrasts of urban and rural life, with either nostalgic or bitter feelings. In recent years this has changed and the emphasis has moved to the urban way of life.
Hrafn Gunnlaugsson’s “Viking films”; When the Raven Flies (Hrafninn flýgur – 1984), and In the Shadow of the Raven (Í skugga hrafnsins – 1988) enjoyed popularity abroad, but the film that definitely put Iceland on the world cinema map was undoubtedly Children of Nature (Börn náttúrunnar – 1991) by Fridrik Thór Fridriksson, which was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Foreign Film and screened all over the world.
Noi the Albino (2003)
Today Icelandic features are an established part of world cinema, with regular appearances at all the major film festivals and increasing sales all over the world.
One thing that has characterized the Icelandic film scene lately, as in many other countries, is the steadily growing production of documentaries dealing with contemporary social subjects. Some of these have enjoyed popularity in cinemas. Icelandic shorts are also appearing more frequently and have been collecting awards at international festivals. In 2006 the short The Last Farm (Síðasti bærinn) by Rúnar Rúnarsson was nominated for an Academy Award.In the new age of Icelandic cinema, many promising buds can be seen.
Angels of the Universe (2000)
Increased financial support from the Icelandic Film Centre and a greater number of subsidies, more collaborations with overseas parties, increased filming by foreign companies of large projects, and the many young, up and coming film directors are indications of a bright future for the Icelandic cinema. (http://icelandcinemanow.com)