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Inspired by Iceland

Paris of the North – Biting humour from Iceland

06/09/2014 | By | Reply More

A new film ‘Paris of the North’ was premiered in Iceland, September 5th. with good  receptions

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‘Paris of the North’ is a small but appealing, character-driven dramedy about emotionally handicapped men, featuring several father-son relationships that humorously model various styles of manhood and schools of parenting.

After his brittle comedy-drama Either Way (which gained notoriety after being made into US film Prince Avalanche), the second feature by Icelandic director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson, ‘Paris of the North’ once again deals with the ideas of isolation and the hell of one’s own friends and relations.

Synopsis

The action takes place over a summer in northwest Iceland, in a rundown fishing village so claustrophobically tiny (Flateyri in the Westfjords – population 150), that sometimes situations become a bit too intimate.

Take, for example, the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings attended by the protagonist, Hugi (Björn Thors). The only other people in the group are Svanur (Sigurdur Skúlason), the father of Erna (Nanna Kristín Magnúsdóttir), the woman Hugi has just broken up with and Richard (Jón Páll Eyjólfsson), Erna’s former partner and the father of her serious-minded, soccer-playing 10-year-old son, Albert (Haki Lorenzen), with whom Hugi has a quasi-paternal relationship.

Hugi is a primary-school teacher who has come to this secluded town from Reykjavik hoping to heal from the wounds of his broken marriage, and to hide from the trials and tribulations of city life.

Here he can pass his summer holidays jogging, attending AA meetings and taking Portuguese lessons online.

But even though he doesn’t initially realize it, Hugi is carting around a lot of invisible baggage, including the torch he still carries for his ex-wife, something that prevents him from becoming too close to Erna.

Eventually, Hugi’s estranged, hard-drinking father, Thorfinnur (Helgi Björnsson), fresh from a stint as a bar owner in Thailand, insists on coming for a visit.

Hugi tries to insist on certain boundaries and conditions, but these fail to offer protection against the charismatic older man’s intrusive, manipulative ways.

Much to Hugi’s dismay, Thorfinnur and Erna start to become close, to the point where young Albert earnestly asks Hugi if he thinks they will become brothers.

Clearly, in order for Hugi to retain his sanity and sobriety, either he or Thorfinnur will have to leave this Paris of the north.

Indeed, this is first and foremost a story about men trying to come to terms with their own lives at their own pace, which in rural Iceland doesn’t seem to be all that quick, with the director, cinematographer G. Magni Ágústsson and editor Kristján Loðmfjörð opting to let everything play out in long, static shots that often frame the characters against the imposing coastal landscapes.

The acting is thus vital to draw viewers in and thankfully Thors, recently seen in Baltasar Kormakur’s Oscar-shortlisted The Deep, is a terrifically charismatic performer even if his character is obviously somewhat adrift.

Whether nervously jogging away all his pent-up energy and anger on the road alongside the depressingly drab few buildings of the village; engaging in an online language course with the faint hope of reconnecting with his ex-girlfriend, who has moved to Portugal, or trying to recover from his most recent relationship disaster with the local swimming pool worker, Erna (Nanna Krisíin Magnúsdóttir), Thors is always convincing.

Film Review

This is a tight piece of work that sets an intimate relationship drama against the vastness and majesty of Iceland’s mountains and countryside.

The humour is dry and biting, with Huldar Breiðfjörð’s script bringing forth some well-observed moments of absurdity.

The performances are strong, with Helgi Björnsson and Björn Thors striking up a good chemistry as father and son, and each finding a nice balance between outward bravado and gruffness, and inner fragility.

Much of the success of the feature is also due to Sigurðsson being able to balance the small, self-contained moments of the film with wild bursts of energy (such as a scene in which Hugi goes off the rails).

Mention must also be made of the fantastic soundtrack by Icelandic artist Prins Póló where you can listen the song on Icelandic, by clicking on the soundtrack below.

If a single word would have to describe the film, it would be balance, as this portrayal of Hugi and the men in his orbit quietly but precisely observes their hard-to-kick habits but also the characters’ innate positive traits, such as Hugi’s warm relationship with 10-year-old Albert, who’s stuck in a town where he’s the only kid interested in playing soccer — a serious problem for a wannabe goalie.

“You’ll make a fine father one day,” one of the characters observes about Hugi, which is about as hopeful as it gets out there in this remote fishing village, where even in summer there’s little sun.

Watch the Official Trailer below.

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Production

(Iceland-France-Denmark) A Kjartansson & Zik Zak Filmworks production in co-production with Arizona Prods., Flickbook Films, Profile Pictures. (International sales: Pascale Ramonda, Paris.) Produced by Sindri Páll Kjartansson, Þórir Snær Sigurjónsson. Co-producers, Skúli Fr. Malmquist, Ditte Milsted, Jacob Jarek, Guillaume de Seille, Tobias Munthe.

Crew

Directed by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson. Screenwriter, Huldar Breiðfjörð. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), G. Magni Agústsson; Editor, Kristján Loðmfjörð; Composer, Prins Póló; Production designer, Hálfdán Pedersen; Costume designers, Margrét Einarsdóttir, Eva Vala Gudjónsdóttir; Sound, Huldar Freyr Arnarsson.

With

Björn Thors, Helgi Björnsson, Nanna Kristín Magnúsdóttir, Sigurdur Skúlason, Jón Páll Eyjólfsson, Haki Lorenzen.

Showtime: 95 minute

Director – Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson

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Film Director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson

Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson was born in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1978. He studied screenwriting and film directing at Columbia University, New York, US.

His first feature film ’Á annan Veg’ (Either Way) screened at more than 50 film festivals around the word and was re-made in US a Prince Avalanche.

In 2012, Hafteinn Gunnar was selected as “Variety´s Ten European Directors to Watch”

’Paris of the North’ is his second feature film.

Filmography

2014 – Paris of the North, feature film  / 2011 – Á annan Veg  (Either Way), feature film  / 2007 – Skröltormar (Rattlesnakes) short film.

 

Category: Iceland

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