Á annan veg
A film by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson
Another Icelandic film that had hitherto escaped my attention, found hidden in the Anoka county library system’s computer catalog. A true road movie: all of the action takes place on or near desolated stretches of Iceland's rural roads. I had seen one of its stars, Hilmar Guðjónsson, in a 2012 production of Rauð (Red), a play about Mark Rothko. I saw him in 2015 as well, in the Vesturbaerlaug swimming pool, but that was a different kind of “exposure.”
Set in the mid-80s, two road workers are spending their summer manually painting lines and pounding in stakes along a mostly deserted highway. Alfred (Hilmar) is 24 and restless, eager to return to the city. Finnbogi (Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson) is 33, and is using the summer to take a break from a stormy relationship with Alfred’s sister. The relationship between the men is strained to begin with, and goes downhill from there. A lot of not very enlightened talk about women eventually comes to a breaking point. I won’t go into plot; this more a film of atmosphere and nuance. The Icelandic scenery in the film is among its bleakest, this is most definitely not an Icelandic Tourism film. A hard film to like. While the actors are fine, I found the set-up and payoff not worth the effort. The film did have some success on the festival circuit where its “indie” production sensibilities would be an asset. It was remade as Prince Avalanche in the U.S. in 2013, starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, which bombed at the box office.