The Icelandic TV series Trapped has been well received in the UK. It’s the first Icelandic crime series shown on BBC Four, in the popular slot reserved for what the Brits call Nordic Noir. Last week I had the privilege to interview two TV critics about Trapped, Alison Graham from Radio Times and Caroline Frost from The Huffington Post. My cameraman, Ingimar Eydal, went with me to meet the ladies and the interviews were aired on the culture show Menning, aired on RUV (The National Icelandic Broadcasting Service).
If you want to catch another Icelander on the silver screen you can go and see Olafur Darri Olafsson in Zoolander 2, and if you want to see more of him, he has a lot bigger role in the brand new TV series Trapped, starting on BBC Four next Saturday. Trapped is the first Nordic Noir series from Iceland shown on BBC.
On top of that, composer Johann Johannsson might get his second BAFTA award for his score for Denis Villeneuve’s film Sicario next Sunday. Last year Johannsson took home a BAFTA for the music he wrote for The Theory of Everything.
Lurking behind the scenes are also two exceptional artists from the island. Heba Thorisdottir is responsible for the excellent make up in Tarantino’s Hateful Eight and Hildur Gudnadottir plays the cello for Iñarritu’sRevenant. There are probably many others I don’t know about. Icelanders seem to be everywhere these days.
In October I was granted the honour of interviewing Dame Helen Mirren on the red carpet at the European premiere of TRUMBO, directed by Jay Roach. Bryan Cranston gave a cracking performance as Dalton Trumbo, the Hollywood screenwriter who was blacklisted after refusing to testify in the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947. Mirren is great in the role of Hedda Hopper, the infamous and nasty gossip columnist.
Being one of the reporters on the carpet is sort of mad; desperately trying to get the movie stars to notice you and answer your questions. More than half of these reporters go home empty handed. Before I knew it, I was telling Helen Mirren that it was the first time Icelandic TV had a reporter on the red carpet for a film event of that scale. Her attention was caught, and I asked her whether she thinks films can influence people and send dangerous messages.
At the moment I’m incredibly proud of being Icelandic. The reason is the same as often before, that matters regarding LGBTQI+ rights are quite progressive in Iceland. I’ve written about it before, here and here.
Last Sunday the longest running TV program for children, ‘Stundin okkar’, (Our hour) aired an episode in the afternoon, just like most Sundays during the wintertime for more than three decades. However, this episode was different. It featured the Pop artist Paul Oscar as the main guest, touching on the topic of being gay. The conversation was open, very natural and heartfelt. The fact that this was aired on RUV, The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, makes me very happy.
‘Some guys like other guys, some guys like girls. Some girls like guys, some girls like other girls. – You don’t decide what makes your heart beat, it just beats.’
I just watched a very interesting piece on BBC Earth. Melissa Hogenboom travelled to Iceland to search for trolls. It did not go quite the way she expected. This is one of the best programmes I’ve seen about this subject. If you have twelve minutes to spare watching this is a time well spent. Click on the link below to watch.
In a sunny and warm Italy the highly anticipated film Everest opened the Venice Film Festival yesterday. The last two films to open the festival were Gravity in 2013 and Birdman last year. Everest is made by the only Icelandic director ever to make Hollywood blockbusters, Baltasar Kormakur.
The film is based on a true story of a climbing expedition on Mt. Everest, that is devastated by a severe snow storm. The film has already gotten several reviews. Time Out praised the ‘astonishing’ craft of Kormakur’s 3-D spectacular and The Hollywood Reporter called the movie ‘gripping and immersive’. Peter Bradshaw from Guardian is not as content and says it’s a ‘thriller that’s light on thrills’. Variety and ScreenDaily have also published their reviews.
Kormakur is born on the 27th of February to an Icelandic mother, Kristjana Samper, and a Spanish father, Baltasar Samper, both respected artists in Iceland. Baltasar Kormakur started out as an actor and became well-known at a young age, but found passion in directing early on and has since staged plays, directed films and has recently added TV to the equation. Furthermore, he is a very productive producer. You can read about his body of work here and I personally recommend this interview and this one.
Then there are trailers for some of his films. First up is 101 Reykjavik, his directorial debut.
White Night Wedding is loosely based on the play Ivanov by Anton Chekhov. Baltasar also directed the play at the National Theatre of Iceland.
I adore Dame Helen Mirren! She’s one of my favourite actresses and simply a great role model as well. She stands out for her incredible versatility as an actress, she’s feisty, very intelligent, has a great sense of humour and is never afraid to get her opinions across.
Yesterday Helen Mirren turned 70 and in her honour I have chosen a few clips from her career to show you. Enjoy!
When she talked about Caligula she was spot on!
Jane Tennison is still my favourite detective.
And finally a recent interview where she talks about the theatre, her career, her parents and more. It’s very good.
Last night I watched the film A Song For Jenny on BBC1. Even now my eyes water when I think about scenes from the movie. It’s heartbreaking to watch but worth it. A Song for Jenny is based on a book by Julie Nicholson, a mother who lost her daughter during the 7/7 attacks in 2005. The book was adapted for television by the Irish playwright Frank McGuinness and Brian Percival directs. It’s very well written and directed. It’s often said that storytelling is all in the details and this screenplay is a proof of that. Emily Watson gives an incredible performance as Julie, one you’ll never forget.
Julie is struggling to accept her daughter’s death in the suicide bombing at The Edgware Road tube station. As viewers, we can feel the raw emotions through Watson’s performance, the anguish, the devastating wait for the worst news possible. Then the death of hope, the anger and the hatred, but also the complicated and mixed feelings when she tries to honour her daughter by letting go of the hatred, failing at first.
In this interview with The Express, Emily Watson talks about how she met Julie ahead of filming; ‘Julie was amazingly generous. She is a natural storyteller and has a sense of the poetic, despite her own grief,’ says Emily. ‘I asked her a lot of really direct questions and she answered them completely. Although she kind of lost her faith, she came through it and chose life and love and not hatred.’
If Watson will not take home a lot of awards during next awards season, I’ll be surprised. It’s not often we see acting on this level, not even in England.
A Song for Jenny is one of the most powerful explorations of grief I’ve ever seen.
The last day of filming the very last episode of Downton Abbey took place in Highclere Castle yesterday. The series will air here in the UK this autumn, and as expected the last episode will be on Christmas Day.
There will be carolling, that much we know already. There is also a new puppy called Pringles and… drumroll please! Carson will spill some wine! Oh my! Has good old Carson lost his touch? Will he and Mrs. Hughes get married? What will happen to Mary or poor Edith? Julian Fellows has not said much, but at least he’s said the theme of series six is resolution.
ITV’s much loved period drama has been a worldwide hit. It regularly pulls in 11 million viewers in the UK alone and 25.5 million viewers watched series five. There have been rumours that there might be a Downton movie in the pipes. We’ll see!
The photos are from my visit to Highclere Castle in August, when I interviewed Lady von Carnarvon for RUV. Now the media has been banned from taking photos of the paintings in the castle so this first photo is a bit special.
Iceland and England are among the most dedicated football nations according to Sporting Intelligence. Many Icelanders are devoted supporters of English leagues like United, Arsenal and Liverpool. They save up to go to matches in London, have all the gadgets and sing along while watching a match on TV.
Do British football fans support Icelandic teams then? Nah… not so likely. In these fantastically funny comedy sketches we meet Stuart, a fanatic supporter of the Icelandic league KR. It’s taken from the series Drekasvæðið on RUV (The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service) but don’t worry, it’s in English!