Scandinavian Film Festival Review: Paris of the North (Iceland, 2014)

Paris of the North is director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson‘s second feature film. His first feature was the Icelandic comedy Either Way, which was remade into the US film Prince Avalanche, directed by David Gordon Green. The film was written by Icelandic script writer and novelist Huldar Breidðfjörð.

Long time actor and musician Helgi Björnsson plays the father (an unwanted guest); previously having been part of well known and popular Icelandic band S S SÓL, an Icelander or someone familiar with Björnsson’s work, would have an interesting extra perspective [on viewing], in light of crossover between characterisation, the cinema and life. But this is only an interesting aside – there is a lot here in this film. In tandem with Björnsson, the actor Björn Thors, plays the put on son Hugi to perfection.

I don’t know why this film is called Paris of the North, but these are some of similarities I see between Paris, France and Paris, Iceland. It is a beautiful film in many ways – the landscape, the framing, the composition of the shots, the crispness of the image. The opening sequence has a subtle beauty that only the moving image can deliver – then you get into the story.

Nothing much happens in the film, but this is the stuff of life. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes wonderful, as in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).

The film begins by panning gently through a kind of architecture which is uniform in appearance – corrugated iron, coloured in very pale yellows and pinks with pitched roofs. They too have a kind of beauty but they could also be read as boring – as life in this small town is. They appear to be  kit houses, or at least they look like they are, as they’re all the same.

Like  It’s a Wonderful Life,  it’s a film of connections, about friendships which are important, hard and wonderful. This film is a film of contrasts. It’s also about not connecting, receiving well meant, yet hollow advice, unwanted house guests or not communicating well with those you care for.  The town is really flat and yet it’s set amongst tall mountains, in a landscape which is breath taking. The film has got an ugliness and beauty all wrapped together and like life, things don’t always work out the way you want.  “But if you try sometimes you just might find the things that you need”.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

 

The Scandinavian Film Festival is showing in cinemas across the country through until July 29th. Head to www.scandinavianfilmfestival.com to check up on the full program and ticketing options.