Vedramót premiered in late 2007, with a thrilling tagline and a chaotic portrait of a young girl casually smoking a cigarette on the cover. Having written one of Iceland’s most loved comedies (Stella í Orlofi (1986)) writer-director Gudný Halldórsdóttir decided to do something completely different with her next film and created a shocking drama full of hippies, drugs, sex abuse, incest and hurt. Halldórsdóttir has clearly received some of her father’s (Nobel prize-winning writer Halldór Laxness) genes for the film thrives on interesting characters, stirring plot points and an almost bulletproof storyline.
Vedramót is set in the early 1970s, when the Icelandic hippie movement was still strong and the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs was booming. Three hippie friends decide to make the world a better place by supervising an institution for juvenile delinquents in Northern Iceland. The mood of the 1970s is brilliantly captured with fun props, warm desaturated colors, old jokes and slang, like calling a little stash of dope “stud” (the Icelandic word for “good times”). Great costuming, Hilmir Snaer Gudnason’s giant fuzzy coat for example, and make-up add the final layer without ever going too far.
Norwegian cinematographer Svein Krøvel (Elling (2001)) smoothly captures the slow yet fulfilling sequence of events with smooth camera movements and strong, well-framed shots. The lack of establishing shots and long shots increases the feel of isolation of the institution and wraps the story tightly together.
An interesting cast and crew are behind this film. Scandinavian professionals heavily support the crew while some of the cast consists of young unknown talents taking their first steps in acting (many of whom are offsprings of elite people within Icelandic show business like Hrafn Gunnlaugsson, Baltasar Kormákur and Egill Ólafsson). The cast is allowed to stutter, hesitate and even drool, making their roles more believable and adding needed texture to their characters.
Jörundur Ragnarsson (TV’s Naeturvaktin (2007), Astropía (2007)) takes a plunge into his most challenging role yet. If it had not been for Halldórsdóttir’s firm direction this role would scatter, possibly making Ragnarsson a laughing stock. Hera Hilmarsdóttir barely pulls off her demanding role as a cunning girl who desperately wants to leave the institution by any means necessary.
Tinna Hrafnsdóttir, Hilmir Snaer Gudnason (White Night Wedding (2008), 101 Reykjavík (2000)) and Atli Hrafn Sigurdsson (Jar City (2006)) all deliver satisfying performances, but it would have been great to see a younger actor take Gudnason’s (born in 1969) place. Smaller appearances by Helgi Björnsson (Cold Trail (2006)), Ragnheidur Gísladóttir (Med Allt á Hreinu (1982)), who is also the film’s composer, and especially Björn Jörundur (Englar Alheimsins (2000)) were a breath of fresh air when the film was starting to feel a little claustrophobic.
Incredibly enough, once again viewers get a glimpse of Hilmir Snaer in the nude, confirming the act to be a trend or a continuing joke among Icelandic filmmakers. Aside from the gratuitous nudity, the film had only two major setbacks: some odd use of words in dialogues and the lack of intensity the most dramatic scenes.
Because of Vedramót’s daring storyline, well-developed characters and dramatic originality, the film is an asset to the Icelandic film pile and is sure to stir things up a bit. Without question, Icelandic filmmaking really is getting better and bolder.
To view the trailer, click here.
Review by Egill M. Arnarsson – [email protected]
Egill M. Arnarsson is a multimedia designer from The School of Multimedia in Reykjavík. He graduated with distinction from the Fine Arts Department of the Vocational School in Akureyri (VMA) in 2004 and in 2005, he studied Film and Television at the University of Wales. He is an amateur filmmaker and graphic designer; click here for Arnarsson’s online portfolio.