Scandinavian Cinema: Rúnarsson and the discovery of Iceland

Art, Special

 I choose to start my journey through Scandinavian Cinema through the country which was the most unknown and distant to me. My first incursion to this series of article about the nordic audiovisual production begins in Iceland.

If I can give a film buff an advice is MUBI is a social network that should be part of your daily life, and there I meet Rúnar Rúnarsson. The Icelander director and screenwriter is pointed as the great promisse of the local cinema with three shorts and one feature Volcano (2011), pre-indicate by Iceland to the Oscar of Foreigner Language Film and it was shown at the Mostra Internacional de São Paulo last year. It’s always great news when you can stream online for free and legally, which is the case, subtitled in english even better. Unfortunatelly the same is not true for the shorts, they are more difficult to find, but not impossible (that’s why I love internet!), Last Farm and Birds (with subtitles) are available on YouTube.

Rúnarsson did his Cinema’s Studies in Denamark, he returned to his home to film. In 2004 with Last Farm, he was recognized and received several awards in important Film Festival around the world, not to mentionate and indication to the Oscars in the Short Film Live Action (the other is Short Film Animation).

Last Farm (Síðasti bærinn) makes an intimate portrait of Hrafn and of a world that is doomed to disappear, the old farmer lives in a remote region of the country, lost his wife and these are the last days before the winter is over and he start a life in a nursery house. When everything indicates the “normal path” of eldery, his decision is at same time the last act of hopelessness against the changes and the breath of freedom and independence.


Birds (Smáfuglar) from 2008 makes the opposite moviment and sets the narrative in a city context in the begging of youth. The situation is very common: a couple, his male friend, her female friend and the opportunity to attend a party with older people and experience ketamine. The shy leading figure likes the girl, but things goes out of control, as the story happens slowly there is a constant growing angst that carried me through the end and overcome the credits. Their lost of innocence is a mix of unforeseen, abrupt but he takes a sweet atitude. Birds is one of those films that I will have to ruminate for sometime until I can digest it.


The feature Volcano (Eldfjall) returns to the Last Farm theme and makes a step fooward in discussing the aging process. Actually, the transition moment of a man in between his “productive life” and retirement. Perhaps, one of our productive system greatest burden is the constant depreciation of the elderly who’s after a life dedicate to work is lead to see themselves as “useless”. In which moment was the family left aside as a priority? And now what happens? First comes denial, then the desire to put an end to it.

However, this man of traditional values (very uncomfortable at start) meets a something to life for in a shock. Until the moment of the narrative’s first turning point it seems that the film is just another family drama and it’s at this very sense of familiarity that I was trapped inside the screen as the construction of the scenes developed, the economy of dialogues could reach the tune on the difficulty of getting to lost time back, the almost none existing communication of the father with the sons, I was hypnotized by them.



As he finally decides to open his feelings to his wife, they kiss and make sex. The scene is so beautiful that had an euphoric effect on me, not in a sexual way, but how it was filmed in a very shameless atmosphere: two imperfect bodies that carry signs of age, bodies that fit to reality of the characters and their story. The beautiful and sweet act of “making love” has nothing to do with pudic, they “fuck” with desire and are filmed explicitly (for a non-porn film). The natural way in which its shown makes me think that in times where standards are going back to conservatives that brings boldness, like a statement against some beauty patterns.

Once again the decision is the hands and minds of humans, mortal creatures who’s final lesson in life somehow reveals ones failure to control the world, of making out of it as ones whishes. The constant learning is to life despite of things being what they are and events that happens when we least expect.

It’s quite some time that a film didn’t make me cry like I did, but that old grumpy man has touched me in a way that I could relate him to my own experience. Volcano has in Theodór Júlíusson (Hannes) a straightness that overcome the exotic landscape and speaks directly to the viewers.

I couldn’t find out Rúnarsson next project, but I am curious. Unfortunately, I didn’t find and watched Anna from 2009, short about a 12 year old girl that lives in a fishing village and testimonies her world changes. So, I appreciate is someone that reads this text know where to find it and share it on the comments.

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