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Reykjavķk Grapevine

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Reykjavķk Grapevine

						August is your last chance to see the 

cavalcade of classic Icelandic films 

that have been playing at Bíó Paradís 

this summer. Especially worth seeing 

are two films??Heima? and ?Back-

yard??that capture the local music 

scene in the last decade. 

For many, the music of Sigur Rós 

conjures up images of the Icelandic 

countryside, magnificent mountains 

and peaceful fjords. It?s somewhat 

ironic that initially they primarily 

appealed to big city folks, whereas 

country-dwellers in Iceland preferred 

the more dance-friendly, less cere-

bral concerts given by mainstream pop bands with sól (?sun?) in the title 

(such as SS Sól, Á móti sól or Sóldögg). ?Heima? (?At Home?) from 2007 docu-

ments the attempts of the ethereal elves to bring their music back home. The 

locals at first seem puzzled by the latté-drinking, lopapeysa wearing post-

rock superstars but are soon won over. The setting is fantastic and the music 

is sublime. A darker undercurrent in the film is the damming of the highlands, 

which was vigorously protested by the band. Perhaps one day ?Heima? will be 

seen as a vital document, not just of a great band at the peak of their powers, 

but also of these isolated communities before the dams of modernity burst.

Whereas Sigur Rós set off to 

explore the countryside, ?Back-

yard? keeps its heart firmly in 

101 Reykjavík, revolving around 

a concert held in somebody?s 

backyard on Culture Night in 

2009. It is perhaps the ultimate 

cinematic document of the 

?krútt? (?cute?) generation of 

Icelandic musicians who grew 

up in the shadow of Björk and Sigur Rós, where originality was key and inter-

national fame was just around the corner. Múm are the biggest stars here and 

Retro Stefson the brightest hope, but it is perhaps the band Reykjavik! that 

gives the best performance, rocking out fiercely and at some point attempting 

to eat their microphones. FM Belfast closes the show surrounded by fans on all 

sides, some of them only in their underwear in keeping with the lyrics, which 

prompts the band to do the same. Like the music, the film is low-key, intimate 

and charming, a sort of ?Rock in Reykjavík? film of this new generation

?Unraveled,? the debut novel of seasoned journalist, 

translator, author, and blogger Alda Sigmundsdóttir, 

opens on the brink of calamity?the sort of world-

changing upheaval whose warning signs, in retro-

spect, seem so obvious, but which completely elude 

those involved until it?s much too late. The year is 

2008, and Frida Lowe, the wife of a British diplomat, 

has just returned to Iceland after 12 years? absence. 

Struggling with the ghosts of her difficult childhood, 

the last-gasps of a failing marriage, and a pervasive 

lack of confidence, Frida?s own personal meltdown 

coincides with the kreppa, the financial crisis which 

crippled Iceland?s economy and sent the entire nation 

into its own bout of soul-searching and regeneration. 

For Frida, the past is, as the saying goes, but a 

prologue to the growth and change that her future promises. And so, much of the 

novel?s first chapters are spent in flashback, examining the defining moments in 

Frida?s life which have led her to her present situation. This backstory is not strictly 

necessary from a narrative standpoint, but it is so richly realised that it creates a 

genuine intimacy with the character, a context which allows the reader to see all 

of her behaviour in a clearer light. Alda takes the same approach with the histori-

cal elements of her novel: a pivotal scene takes place just after the two airplanes 

were flown into New York City?s World Trade Center. This event obviously sets 

about serious historical consequences, but in the context of the novel, it also has a 

profound impact on Frida and her relationship with her husband. With this gift for 

hindsight, ?Unraveled? can be forgiven for occasionally veering from its present-

day plotline into melodrama, although even these unexpected twists are ground-

ed in retrospective revelations. Looking backwards, everything falls into place. 

Playing narrative tragedy off of so recent, so fraught, and so controversial an 

historical moment is an ambitious project to be sure, but Alda handles it with bal-

ance and clarity, and no wonder. Not only did she spend six years good-naturedly 

providing non-Icelanders with a window into Iceland?s culture and political land-

scape via her beloved blog The Iceland Weather Report, she has also published 

?Living Inside a Meltdown,? a collection of interviews with Icelanders about the fi-

nancial crisis. Moreover, as an Icelander who spent over 20 years living outside the 

country, Alda has a unique perspective?she, like her main character Frida?can 

be both inside of Icelandic society and also maintain a bit of distance from it. This 

gives her writing?from her humorous essays on the Icelandic character (?The 

Little Book of Icelanders?) and her retellings of traditional Icelandic folktales (?Ice-

landic Folk Legends?), to this, her first novel?a welcoming quality, an awareness 

that certain truisms (or generalisations, depending on your perspective) about the 

Icelandic character are helpful to have explained. 

Occasionally, these snappy factoids (ranging in topic from Icelanders? insis-

tence on hygienic bathing rituals and their predilection for arriving at the last min-

ute, to the renowned independence of Icelandic women) read a bit awkwardly, 

although Alda appears to be in on the joke: ?You?re giving me the Icelandic Tourist 

Board spiel,? Frida teases, after being warned about the unpredictability of Icelan-

dic nature. ?Oh, sorry,? comes the reply. ?I forget that I?m not showing a foreigner 

around.?

41 Film

Backyard Babies

Review by Larissa Kyzer

By Alda Sigmundsdóttir

By Valur Gunnarsson

B O R G  R E S TA U R A N T  -  P Ó S H Ú S S T R Æ T I  9 - 1 1  -  1 0 1  R E Y K J AV Í K

T E L :  + 3 5 4 - 5 7 8 - 2 0 2 0  -  I N F O @ B O R GRESTAURANT . I S  -  W W W. B O R GRESTAURANT . I S

?Out of this world!!!?

?It certainly was the best of the many places we dined in Reykjavik!? 

FrequentFlyer513 - New York City, New York - Trip Advisor

CBondGirl - Calgary, Canada. Trip Advisor

k100

k60

THE FRESHEST FISH ....AND IDEAS!

SKÓLAVÖRÐUSTÍGUR 14 - 101 REYKJAVÍK - 571 1100

After years of study,

strings of awards and

having led kitchens of

some of Reykjavík?s most 

esteemed restaurants,

Gústav still sees him

self as just a kid from

up north, with a life-

time passion for fish.

Unraveled

REVIEW

BOOK

					
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