Images from the Edge: Classic and Contemporary Icelandic Cinema
Although there had been filmmaking in Iceland since the silent era—our series includes the country’s first two sound features—Icelandic cinema was really “born” in 1978, with the creation of the Icelandic Film Fund. Two years later, Ágúst Guðmundsson’s Land and Sons was released with great success nationally and internationally, making the rounds of the festival circuit. Icelandic film was finally on the cinematic map.
Despite the ever-real presence of a cinematic globalization (read: Hollywood) that threatens to engulf especially the cinemas of small nations, Iceland has more than held its own in the face of considerable overseas competition. Average feature production in the past decade has been 7-8 films per year, for a population of about 320,000; as in other parts of Europe, co-production agreements are often essential. A number of recent Icelandic films—Jar City, Reykjavik Rotterdam (recently remade here as Contraband)—have been enormous hits at home and have opened new markets for Icelandic films across Europe.
The “edge” in the title of our series refers not only the borders of the continental shelves of Europe and North America that jut against each across Iceland (a rather spectacular sight), but also the quality of many of the films included here. Icelandic landscapes are beautiful, but it’s a harsh beauty, and that harshness can be felt in stories that often offer their characters the starkest of choices. This is a world in which almost everything seems pushed to the limit, and what is so remarkable is how accepting these characters are of this daily reality.
This series has been organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Icelandic Film Centre. Special thanks to the Centre’s director, Laufey Guðjónsdóttir, for her support, encouragement and hospitality. Series programmed by Richard Peña.