Review by Alana Odegard.
When I first got wind that director Ragnar Bragason and the rest of the gang from “The Shift” were releasing a full length feature film, Mr. Bjarnfredarson (Bjarnfredarson), as the next installment of the popular TV series, it sounded too good to be true.
Part of me was excited and the other was, well, skeptical.
There’s no doubt about the success that The Night Shift (Naeturvaktin) and The Dayshift (Dagvaktin) and The Prison Shift (Fangavaktin) had as episodes aired on TV, but could the franchise hold its own as a movie?
As a fan of the series, I was rooting for the cast that I had gotten to know since I first saw them dominate the ratings on TV in 2007, and I wanted nothing more than for main characters Georg, Ólafur Ragnar and Daníel to conquer the box office as well.
In my opinion, these guys could make us laugh just watching paint dry. And really, if Sex and the City can make the leap from the small screen to the silver screen, why not Mr. Bjarnfredarson, right?
For all of you who may not be familiar with the TV series, the film does a good job of catching up with what’s happening in the lives of the characters. But of course, if you have the opportunity to watch The Night Shift, The Dayshift and The Prison Shift, I would highly recommended you do so.
If you’ve seen the guys in action before, not only will you be able to pick up more about what’s going on in the movie, but you’ll better appreciate the dynamics between the characters.
I’ve seen the movie a few times already, if that’s any indication of what I think about it. I, along with 20 percent of the nation, first saw it in the cinema after its theatrical release in 2009. It was the first Icelandic film I watched without English subtitles, and I thought I followed it pretty well.
Like its television predecessors, Mr. Bjarnfredarson was a success, becoming the film with the highest-grossing opening.
Just to make sure nothing had been left out in translation when I first viewed it, I screened it again at home on the eve of the Reykjavík municipal elections. Little did I know that I was watching our future mayor at work (Jón Gnarr plays the title role of Georg Bjarnfredarson).
Having established a strong sense of who the characters are and what they’re more or less about in the previous three installations of the series, the franchise takes up from where it left off.
The trio was last seen in The Prison Shift, which had pleasantly surprised me with its unexpected dramatic twist and Mr. Bjarnfredarson continues along this same path.
The boys are all out of jail and even though you think they would go their separate ways, somehow or another they all end up together again.
Their close-quarters reunion is great news for us since getting on each others’ nerves brings out the best of these guys in terms of comedy.
As the name suggests, the film centers on the story of Georg Bjarnfredarson (Jón Gnarr). Complete with flashbacks from his childhood, we begin to develop an understanding of how anyone could end up as “unique” as the bossy, domineering, set-in-his-ways, micro-managing Georg.
As we come to find out, a wickedly mean, dismissive and ultra-feminist mother and an overbearing, mega-communist grandfather provide some explanation as to what goes into the making “a Georg.”
However, what I found most compelling about Mr. Bjarnfredarson is that it takes a character from a comedy TV show who, for all intents and purposes, would have remained somewhat one-dimensional and delves into the topic of his identity: coming to terms with who he is, where he comes from and who he wants to be.
The more I thought about it, I came to realize that this issue of identity not only applies to Georg, but to the other characters as well.
Ólafur Ragnar (Pétur Jóhann Sigfússon), as hilarious as ever, finds a way to have the last laugh when he puts his talents for quick talking and candid observations to good use, coming into his own more than ever before.
Meanwhile, the now family man Daníel (Jörundur Ragnarsson) tries to figure out how to deal with having both Georg and Ólafur Ragnar staying at his house, as well as how he can begin to please himself and not just those around him.
Even with all the drama talk, the film is fittingly branded a comedy (as it should be, because it is very funny). That being said, it mustn’t be overlooked as being without depth or substance.
The film even looks great too: it won the prize for Best Cinematography at the 2009 Edda Awards (The Icelandic Film and TV Awards). The film was nominated for an astounding 11 Edda awards including Best Film, Best Director, Best Script, Best Actor, and Best Actress. Pretty impressive.
So, if I haven’t yet convinced you that this movie is worth viewing, at the very least watch it so you too will be able to say that you’ve seen the new Mayor of Reykjavík naked.
Alana Odegard – [email protected]
Ready and willing to watch anything that comes her way, Alana has an unquenchable thirst for the motion picture art form. Alana studied film as part of her B.A. degree and as the story so often goes, she is tirelessly trying to find ways to surround herself with the enchanting world of film. She hopes this passion will one day spill over from the realm of pastime to likewise envelop that of fulltime day-job as well.