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Baltasar Kormakur

Contraband * Baltasar Kormákur (2012)

For some reason I connected the title of this film with some near Eastern production. When I heard music from the trailer (without the images) I thought that it would be a hip near Eastern production. Unfortunately “Contraband” is just another Hollywood action thriller crime movie. John Bryce (Mark Wahlberg) is a top-notch ex-smuggler, but when his nephew mucks up a job of his own, John feels forced to take one more job to set the balance again. Of course things do not go as expected and a predictable story unfolds in which John has to take more extreme jobs to make right what went wrong. Just another Hollywood film, but of an Icelandic director.

101 Reykjavík * Baltasar Kormákur (2000)

In the too small society of Reykjavík, Iceland, we follow Hlynur, a young man for whom life has no purpose. At the age of 30 he still lives with his mother and has not worked for a day. During the weeks he does not get out of his computer-filled room, the weekends break the week and Hlynur goes to a local, overcrowded pub in which everybody drinks way too much and has had one-night-stands with everybody. The only reason people live in Iceland is that they we born were there Hlynur says and even though he does not care much, he does not really know what he wants with living. When a new element in the form of the Spanish Flamenco teacher Lola enters the community, things are going in a different direction, but not entirely unexpected, or…?
“101 Reykjavík” is a typical Icelandic (Scandinavian) comedy. Black humour, all-too-common situations (but the bath/couch is something I had never seen), the claustrophobia of a small community, the uninhabitable surroundings and the indifferent way people react to the scenery. The film is amusing, but not really surprising.

Mýrin * Baltasar Kormákur (2006)

“Mýrin” translates as “swamp”, but I think it is the name of a village that the subtitles translate as “Northern moors”. The international title of this Icelandic thriller is “Jar City” which is a reference to an uncanny element of the film. The film tells two stories, one is of a father who looses his daughter to some disease, the other about a policeman investigating a murder (a “typical gruesome and unnecessary Icelandic murder”, a phrase that I recognise from another film I believe). Of course both trails lead to the same point. “Mýrin” is hardly a thriller, but a dark and pressing drama looking into a depressive side of Icelandic society. It took a while before I came to see who was who, which is nicely done. There are some impressive shots of the Icelandic landscape and its harsh climate. Not a great film, but a moody one.