Between Tradition and Liquid Modernity
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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- Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 327 pp., 70 fig. b/w
- Title Page
- Copyright Page
- About the author
- About the book
- Citability of the eBook
- Preface: A Cinematic Terra Incognita?
- Introduction: The Imaginary Island: From a Literary Myth to On-screen Stereotype
- Constructing a Myth
- (Re)constructions of the National Liberation Myth
- Cinematic Reinterpretations of Myths and Stereotypes: From the Cinema of Heritage to the Postmodern Irony
- Iceland as the Other (and Unknowable)
- Part One: Reconfiguring Utopias: Nation Building and Cinema
- 1 Nature, Countryside and the City: The Ideologies of Nation Building
- Country and the City in the Works of the Pioneers of Icelandic Cinema
- Country and the City in Selected Films of Friðrik Þór Friðriksson
- Conclusions: On the Crossroads of the Liquid Modernity
- 2 In the Land of the Great Narrations: Chronotopias, Uchronias and Nostalgic Past
- Nostalgic Returns to the Past
- In the Kingdom of Distance and Irony
- Elves and Globalization
- 3 Tradition, History and Liquid Modernity in Icelandic Musical Documentaries
- Rock in Reykjavík: Rebellion Against the Tradition and Narcotic Taste of Cultural Colonization
- Screaming Masterpiece: “Selling Out the Tradition and History”
- Heima: Community, Nation and Homeland as the Elements of the “Everyday Patriotism”
- Backyard: Beyond Nation and Nature
- Part Two: Figures of Tradition, Crisis and Change
- 4 Of Fishermen and Their Ships: Marine Motifs, Cruel Nature and Zeitgeist
- The Spirit of the Sea and the Wind of Change in the Documentary Cinema
- The Cinema of Seafaring and the Allegories of Crisis
- 5 Restless Daughters of Freyja: Female Soul of Icelandic Cinema
- Historical Background: Female Characters in Nationalistic Narratives
- Cinematic Female Protagonists as Victims of Violence
- Vamps, Warriors and New Models of Independent Women
- 6 The Curious Case of Anti-Vikings
- Introduction: Generation X and the Crisis of Manhood
- One Flew Over the Puffin’s Nest: Friðrik Þór Friðriksson’s Angels of the Universe
- The Plastic Sorrows of the Icelandic Peter Pan: Baltasar Kormákur’s 101 Reykjavík
- The Last Skáld? Marteinn Thorsson’s Rokland
- The Tragic Fall of Icelandic puer aeternus: XL by Marteinn Thorsson
- Part Three: Reimaging Utopia: Genres and Transnational Dreams
- 7 Icelandic Crime Stories
- Literary Roots
- First Steps into the Cinematic Genre: Reynir Oddsson’s Morðsaga
- Flirting with Neonoir
- Reinterpretations of the Gangster and Police Movie
- 8 At the Edge of World: Black Comedies and the Allegories of Crisis and Isolation
- Between Utopia and Dystopia – (Re)constructions of the Concept of Insular Life
- Allegories of Social and Economic Crisis
- 9 Cinematic Journeys Around Iceland
- The First Journey: The Island of Heterotopias and Pagan Beliefs
- The Second Journey: The Island of Stereotypes and Conventions
- The Third Journey: Bitter Flavor of Tourist Utopia
- The Fourth Journey: Pop-cultural Anti-utopia and Entrance into the Void
- The Last Journey: Escapes from Utopia
- Appendix: Tradition and Liquid Modernity in Documentary Cinema
- Part 1. Reinterpretation of the Elements of National Discourse
- Part 2. How to Survive After the Crisis?
- Afterword: Notes After the Year 2016
- List of Figures
- Bibliography of the Previously Published Parts of the Book
4 Of Fishermen and Their Ships: Marine Motifs, Cruel Nature and Zeitgeist
Icelandic texts of culture frequently refer to the fear and faith related to the miraculous and terrifying powers of the nature. Icelandic cinema also employs the antinomy of marvel and cruelty of the northern island, for instance, with the use of references to maritime symbols. The motif of an ocean voyage and the figure of a heroic fisherman constitute important elements of the local culture and as such can be often seen in Icelandic movies. Merging modernity with tradition, the fishing industry is an essential economic sector, treated in Iceland with much seriousness – for hundreds of years, fishermen kept Iceland alive (alongside with the farmers,186 favored, for instance, in the national discourse of the 19th century).
Paradoxically, however, Icelanders have been depreciating the social status of their seamen since the 15th century. In her book A Passage to Anthropology, the Danish anthropologist Kirsten Hastrup proves that during that time the Icelandic system of social classification became disrupted. Iceland started to export fish on a massive scale already in the 14th century, but almost 100 years later, due to the plague which decimated the population, the local fishermen were forced to start working on the shore.187 “Fishing continued, of course, out of sheer necessity” – she writes – ←115 | 116→“but fishermen vanished from the records. They became subsumed under the general category of vinnuhjú (servants) defined by their position within a bú (household), headed by a landowner or a well-to-do tenant on Church or...
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