Lögberg-Heimskringla - 05.06.1981, Blaðsíða 5

Lögberg-Heimskringla - 05.06.1981, Blaðsíða 5
WINNIPEG, FÖSTUDAGUR 5. JÚNÍ 1981-5 Iceland's Film Industry by Linda Asgeirsson (Condensed from an article in Film Comment magazine) A high national average For a country of only about 225,000 people, Iceland has developed an extraordinary culture. Icelanders have their'own language; their own remarkably rich body of literature; their own publishing houses; five daily newspapers; and bookstores whose English sections alone rival in size and quality those of any small American city. Icelanders not only like to read, they go to the movies a lot. Perhaps being in an audience is a way of maintaining contact through the long darkness of winter, but each of - the island's inhabitants sees eleven films a year — a national average that is one of the world's highest. In Reykjavík, well over a million ad- missions were paid to the city's fourteen movie houses. Foreign producers sell film prints outright to the variöus exhibitors in Reykjavík; the cinema owners then subtitle the print and when that copy of the film has finished its run in the capital city (all ticket prices are fixed by government decree), it is distributed by the exhibitor The Lögberg-Heimskringla Zodiac Gemini (May 21-June 21) himself to affiliated theatres in other parts of the country. The print is then returned to Reykjavík where it is stored for a certain length of time, and then apparently destroyed. Foreign producers are not eager for the Icelandic version of their work to be returned; and exhibitors, for a good reason, are not willing to store a legacy of films that ac- cumulate at a rate of 200-a-year. The Government could easily establish a superb international collection of contemporary cinema. At the mo- ment, however, the recently established film archives is all but non-existent and funded primarily to preserve Icelandic cinema. Iceland's pioneer filmmakers There have been filmmakers in Iceland since 1944. Prior to in- dependence, Danish filmmakers oc- casionally shot films on Icelandic location. The first maker of native Icelandic cinema, however, was a still photographer, Loftur Guðmundsson. Loftur made his first film, a short comedy, in 1923. This was followed by a series of docu- mentaries which have been de- scribed as "showing Iceland in liv- ing pictures — the country and its inhabitants, natural catastrophies, by Astrid Thorunn Einarson (First publication rights The sign of the Twins is one of the most versatile of Zodiac signs, with the reputation, derived from its dou- ble symbol, for a natural ability to handle two or more things at once, and to see two or more sides to every question. Gemini is our first representative of the element Air, which is the element of reason and communication. Gemini's ruler, Mercury, once considered the Messenger of the Gods, reinforces this sign's aptitude for quick-witted and useful communication. Typical Geminians tend to work with movement, both of mind and body. They prefer an active life which can stimulate as well as satisfy their perpetual curiosity. Their flexible minds are good at in- venting reasons and ends for means, so they are often called the Inven- tors of the Zodiac. They are rarely depressed for long, since their in- terest in life always picks up when their curiosity is aroused or they see a chance to exchange ideas with others. They are fluent and engag- ing conversationalists and writers. To more emotional types, the traditional Gemini love may seem a little cool with its emphasis on ver- bal expression and variety. Gemi- nians have a talent for sharing their interests with their partners, but may also give a disconcerting im- pression that they are versatile enough to love more than once. They compensate amply, however, by their stimulating companionship and their appealing message that life offers even more, just around the next corner! Typical astrological advice to Geminians seeks to maximize the potential of their native curiosity while at the same time warning that too many interests, picked up and quickly dropped, may disappoint in the long run, since no interest will then be seen to its end. Yet there is no use asking a typical Gemini child or its adult counterpart to methodically finish one task before beginning another. Therefore, Geminians must be encouraged, or encourage themselves, to use their natural ingenuity to find ways of developing their interests in greater depth. It is often suggested that they look for a job or a life-style where their Gemini abilities are valued, and where they can perhaps ap- proach a few interests simultaneously from ever-changing viewpoints. Geminians frequently supplement the interests of their regular work with contrasting night classes, or freelance work. The gift of Gemini to us all is its unique interest in the ever-changing pageant of life and its stimulating belief that knowing more about just about anything is a wonderful and exciting reason for being alive. national celebrations, and visiting heads of state." If Icelandic cinema has a father, it would probably be Óskar Gíslason. In 1919 Óskar assisted during the Icelandic location shooting of the Nordisk Co. film, the Borg Family Saga. Subsequently, he trained as a still photographer, and in 1944 com- pleted in three days (home process- ing and editing included) his first 16mm film, a documentary on the celebrations attending the birth of the nation. In 1949 he made a film that secured his reputation in the other Nordic countries. Lifesaving at Látrabjarg, an exciting account of an actual rescue from the sea, pays tribute to those associations of farmers and fishermen which rescue sailors from vessels stranded on the coastal rocks. At risk to life and Bolex camera, Oskar scaled the cliffs and participated in bringing the luckless British sailors to shelter. Lifesaving at Látrabjarg belongs in the history of the documentary film. In 1950 Óskar himself released what is probably Iceland's first feature-length narrative, The Last Farm in the Valley. Made on a minimal budget, this fairy story of trolls, ogres and clever children is curious and charming. The misadventures in Reykjavík of three bumpkins from the Brakka farm provided the very broad humour for Oskar's most popular film, The Bakka Brothers (1951). His most con- troversial work, Greed (1952), was shown for only a day. Made in an expressionist style, Greed unfolds in flashback from the bed of a dying wealthy woman. A hypocritical minister, while consoling the in- valid, steals jewelry out from under her. The clergy protested, and the film was removed from exhibition. Óskar's last feature, a domestic drama entitled New Role (1954), was the first synch-sound film to be shot on the island. The film enjoyed some popularity, but Óskar's own production company went bankrupt in the late 1950's. When broad- casting began in 1966, Óskar became head of the stills laboratory for television. He retired from the photographic field in 1976. The filming of spectacular events Documentary film-maker Osvaldur Knudsen (1899-1975) was at various times a champion athlete, painter, house-painter, and photographer. He bought his first camera in 1945 and two years later recorded the spectacular eruption of Hekla. Subsequently, Osvaldur covered the activity of Askja (1961), the birth of the volcanic island Surt- sey (1963), Hekla's repeat perfor- mance in 1970, and the evacuation and resettlement of Iceland's impor- tant fishing center, Heimaey. Fire On Heimaey is á spectacular record of the sudden eruption early in 1973 and the return later in the year of the population which dug its buried village out from the ash. Osvaldur's son, Vilhjálmur, continues the work of VOK Film, not only by documen- ting further eruptions, but by main- taining a cozy home-made fifty-seat 16mm theatre next to his house, called The Cinema For Tourists, where his father's and his own films are shown daily. The effects of television The establishment of television broadcasting in Iceland in 1966 has turned out to have been an impor- tant turning point for the film in- dustry. In 1966 the number of film- makers could be counted on one hand; in May of 1980, however, a list of forty-four people working in this field was compiled by the Association of Icelandic Film- makers. What had happened? Ari Thorarinsson, a perceptive young critic, notes that while some of the filmmakers trained abroad, many more "developed their craft during years of work for television". And it is true that two of Iceland's most ac- tive filmmakers, Águst Guðmund- sson and Hrafn Gunnlaugsson, made their earliest 16mm films for broadcast. Águst, who graduated from the Nátional Film School in London in 1977, completed a subtle half-hour drama for television the following year. Story.of a War is seen for the most part through a boy's eyes; the child witnesses the deepening rela- tionship his mother, a widow, has with an American soldier stationed near their town. There is little dialogue and a careful re-creation of the early 1940s. Another 16mm work made for television, Águst's hour-long Little Mound, records the quiet behavior of a high school stu- dent from the realization she is preg- nant, through her decision not to abort or marry, to the birth of her child. Land and Sons and Gísli-Súrsson Águst's Land and Sons (Land og synir in Icelandic) which premiered in January, 1980, is one of Iceland's first 35mm features. Produced for Jón Hermannsson's ísfilm, Landand Sons cost approximately $150,000, of which about a sixth came from the newly-established National Film Fund. The narrative, set in the Depression, is based on a novel about a young man who inherits his father's farm — which he hates. Land and Sons has been shown in Norway, West Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as well as in the Scandinavian Film Week at the New York Museum of Modern Art and other cities of the United States. The original run of Land and Sons in Iceland made enough profit to cover the cost of producing the film, which indicates the box-office suc- cess it has enjoyed. The latest project for ísfilrn in- volves the production team of film- maker Agust Guðmundsson, writer Continued on page 6



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