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The Cinema of Iceland

Between Tradition and Liquid Modernity


Sebastian Jakub Konefał

The last decade was an exceptional period for the Icelandic cinema. The films produced during this time have won many prestigious awards at international festivals. Cinematic images of Iceland eclectically interlace myths, stereotypes and postmodern means of expression. At first glance, the local films obsessively repeat the same themes which might be incomprehensible for a foreign viewer. However, academic research on the most interesting motion pictures creates an opportunity to study the birth and development of small, but energetic and ambitious cinematography. Such an experience also allows analyzing problems related to the system of film production in this sparsely populated country and helps identify challenges during the process of introducing a local culture abroad. Finally, studying Icelandic cinema gives a chance to go on the audiovisual journey through the fascinating culture and unique landscapes.

The author of the book analyses popular topics and narrative strategies in Icelandic films. The research covers local versions of black comedies, road movies and crime stories as well as different figures connected with the motif of struggle between tradition and modernity.

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3 Tradition, History and Liquid Modernity in Icelandic Musical Documentaries



In the year 2000, Anglo-Saxon media announced that the prime minister of Iceland proposed during the parliamentary deliberations to give Björk one of the small islands from the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago:

“Björk is a very well-known person in the world, especially in the music world. She’s also an active player in the social life of Iceland … She is very focused on promoting her mother country. Knowledge of Iceland has risen dramatically since she began her successful career as a musician. …. Björk has done more for the popularity of Iceland than most other Icelanders. My view is that she may be given the use of this island [Ellidaey] as a royalty payment, as recognition from the state”171.

Unfortunately, the message appeared in the end to be a fake news, and the prime minister Davíð Oddsson explained later that his words were misunderstood. However, this example indicates a very important fact – the Icelanders perceive the mission of cultural promotion of their country by art very seriously and are eager to appreciate their noteworthy artists. Music has become one of their most known transnational “products”. Every year hundreds of foreign fans come to Reykjavík to take part in the AirWaves Festival where they can see their favorite artist playing on the street or performing inside libraries and youth hostels. The authorities of the country also efficiently promote the links of music, ecology and pacifism. On the small island Viðey,...

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