Reel Reviews: ‘Eiðurinn’ and ‘Grimmd’

By on June 7, 2017

For foreign film fans

Over the weekend, people were flocking to theaters to see “Wonder Woman,” and while it’s all about the ladies at the domestic box office (the $100 million “Wonder Woman” opening is the largest for a female-directed feature) I was skirting the states abroad and managed to watch two Icelandic films on a flight across the pond.

So, for you lovers of foreign film, here are two blockbusters from a tiny island near the Arctic Circle to enjoy with some Skyr and fiskur (the Icelandic version of yogurt and dried fish).

Baltasar Kormákur, the actor, producer, and director who brought us “2 Guns” (starring Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington) and “Everest,” is both behind and in front of the camera in “Eiðurinn,” which translates to “The Oath.” Kormákur is Finnur, a heart surgeon in Reykjavik, Iceland, whose adult daughter has fallen in with a shady man named Óttar (Gísli Örn Garðarsson). Óttar is a drug dealer and seems to love Anna (Hera Hilmar, “Anna Karenina”), but his evil side shows through when speaking with Finnur. In an effort to free his daughter and himself from the grip of Óttar, Finnur takes justice into his own hands, only to find himself wrapped deeper and deeper into a crevasse of trouble.

“Eiðurinn” is a classic tragedy of errors where good intention meets bad decisions. Filmed in and around Iceland’s capital city in the early winter, the movie is visually stunning as it winds itself from character to character with little unnecessary background. The story is the present. The past is only a drop in a future we, as viewers, are unsure of and can only wonder about.

“Eiðurinn” was the highest grossing film of 2016 in its home country.

Baltasar Kormákur both stars in and directs “Eiðurinn,” Iceland’s highest grossing film in 2016.

‘Cruelty’ (a.k.d. ‘Grimmd’)

Also in 2016, Icelanders witnessed the macabre tale of “Grimmd,” which is marketed in English as “Cruelty.”

Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir is Edda, a female detective in a world run by men.* Against her will, she is paired with an old partner while investigating the murder of two young girls. The film follows the investigation from suspect to suspect, introducing the viewers to a wide variety of characters on a list of sex offenders. One of the men questioned turns out to be Edda’s brother.

Written and directed by newbie Anton Sigurðsson, the movie is uncomfortable and alarming, probably by choice. There is a harsh real world reality mixed into what is delivered as a cautionary tale. The real cruelty is that this movie did not employ better actors, and maybe Sigurðsson should have taken a back seat to directing because the story he writes is fantastic, but is ultimately let down by characters who seem a bit stale at times. That comment goes directly to Vilhjálmsdóttir and should no way diminish the portrayal of Andri by Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson; he is deviant and driven.

*The Icelandic people are extremely proud of their narrow gender gap, so the fact Edda is shown having to struggle with some of her male coworkers is a bit of a surprise, if not a stretch. Of course, I am assuming the film is presented in the current and not a reflection of how things used to be in Iceland many years ago. The nature of the character and her struggle in comparison with real life issues is a topic to debate among scholars and serious film fanatics. This is a great example of why some people are drawn to foreign film.

Looking for foreign films locally, check out Zoetropolis in Lancaster or the Ritz at the Bourse in Philly.

Agree or disagree? Reel Reviews works like this: 1) Watch a movie; 2) Send suggestions, comments and criticism to Michael at SomeProMCU@gmail.com.

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