This Icelandic film is a real gem. Realistic, brutal, touching, magical and deeply disturbing all at the same time. And if that’s not enough, it’s also very, very funny. (It had this viewer laughing out loud both during the film and later, in the Arthouse café discussing it with friends).
This isn’t the Iceland we’ve learned so much about in recent years, the small Scandinavian country of spouting geysers, erupting volcanoes and booming tourist industry. This is a more remote Iceland, where neighbour spies on neighbour, where passions simmer, where ancient feuds erupt without warning and where violence is never far from the surface. The action is set entirely in a wide, remote valley – and what a lot of action there is! In the space of eighty minutes we witness several deaths (human and animal) several funerals (human and animal) two of the most touching and realistic sex scenes you’re ever likely to see (again human and animal) and discovered new uses for a Swiss Army penknife that not even the Swiss could ever have foreseen.
A more bizarre bunch of characters would be hard to find – the local alcoholic prepared to go to any lengths to buy vodka from a passing Russian trawler, the uptight and very respectable bachelor who is murderously jealous of his horse’s sex life, the pair of horny widows, the pastor who gives the same eulogy at each funeral, the Spanish tourist (sic) who appears somewhere and luckily is a dab hand with the previously mentioned Swiss Army knife, and the young Swedish woman who seems to know more about horses than all the rest.
But of course it’s the horses which are the real stars of the film. The annual roundup of these half wild creatures, let loose to graze the meadows during the short summer then herded together each autumn, forms the highpoint of the film. Whether wild or domesticated these are magnificent animals; small, sturdy and strong and the film it a tribute to the symbiosis between humans and horses in this harsh land.
If you haven’t done so already, saddle up your pony and trot down to ArtHouse. There’s nothing quite like it, and it’s definitely one not to be missed.