TV Review: Trapped Series 2

Icelandic crime thriller Trapped returns for a heart-breakingly good second series

“Does this concern politics, or is this a family affair?”

It can seem like we’re swimming in acclaimed Nordic crime series but Baltasar Kormákur’s Ófærð (also known by its English title Trapped) was the one worth catching in 2016. Its first series had an ingenious concept which saw its cast literally trapped by the wintry weather in a remote Icelandic town and perhaps wisely, Series 2 opts for a different season and a different setting in which to reunite its crime-fighting team.

So we’re in the northern town of Siglufjörður and though he’s now based in Reykjavík, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson’s police chief Andri finds himself drawn to an unfolding case which has both professional and personal implications. And topically, writers Sigurjón Kjartansson and Clive Bradley draw in a number of hot button topics – homophobia, Islamophobia folded into a general sense of the rise of the Far Right, plus a dose of environmental exploitation to amp up the relevance points. Continue reading “TV Review: Trapped Series 2”

DVD Review: Trapped

 “Something evil came with that storm
‘I think it was already here…'”

There must come a point when we run out of exceptional European dramas to import but thankfully, it doesn’t look to be happening anytime soon. This time, we’re looking to Iceland with Trapped, a 10 part crime mystery drama that simply reaffirms the extraordinary quality of Nordic Noir, whilst establishing its own niche therein. Created by Baltasar Kormákur (who directed last year’s Everest) and written by Sigurjón Kjartansson and Clive Bradley, it has reportedly received the highest budget by far ever invested into an Icelandic series and well, it shows.

Set in Seyðisfjörður, a remote town on the coast of eastern Iceland, Trapped begins with the discovery of a dismembered torso in the water at the same time that the weekly ferry from Denmark has arrived. Starting the investigation is Chief of Police Andri with colleagues Hinrika and Ásgeir but their job is complicated by the arrival of an almighty blizzard which prevents the Reykavik police from flying in to take over. It also means that no-one can leave, by land or by sea, and so whoever committed the crime can’t have left town… Continue reading “DVD Review: Trapped”

Short Film Review #36

Tortoise, written and directed by Andy Bloom, details the relationship between two teenage brothers who live a sheltered life deep in rural isolation. Things are made worse by the presence of their violent and unpredictable father, a brilliantly unlikeable Matthew Kelly, who dominates their every waking moment and so older brother Charlie, a steely-jawed Tom Hughes, has determined to escape the situation. Problem is the more fragile Billy, a cowed Rob Ostlere, isn’t completely sure and so they’ve waited for over a year until finally provoked once too many. Grim but reflective, a powerful reminder of how they fuck you up, your mum and dad. Sometimes. 

Small Things 
 
Another trip into Icelandic Cinema Online threw up this little gem, Small Things or Litlir Hlutir by Davíð Óskar Ólafsson. A Lantana-like confection, combining together disparate stories and characters into one interconnected world where one small thing for one person sets in chain huge events for others. Gripping stuff which you can watch for a euro here. http://icelandiccinema.com/watch/187  Continue reading “Short Film Review #36”

Short Film Review #35

Knowledgy

Another Icelandic short (it’s a slippery slope once I start on these things…) and this time it’s a jet black comedy. Hrefna Hagalín and Kristín Bára Haraldsdóttir’s Knowledgy follows a naïve Icelandic couple as they get suckered into an LA-based cult by the charismatic leaders (and the example of Ashton Kutcher). Following their every move is their lodger who is filming their story for his film project and provides an excellent external view into this ever-darkening tale.


Audiobook

Another short and sharp clip, James Spinney’s Audiobook is a wryly funny look at the recording of an actor’s memoirs. Daniel Ings’ arrogant Aussie is a volatile presence who threatens to completely overwhelm Oliver Stevens’ young sound technician with his over-inflated and easily-pricked ego. Stevens also wrote the film, which may be short but has a punchy sense of humour about it.


Eddie Loves Mary

A dinky little thing, Hannah Rothschild’s Eddie Loves Mary is a lovely sweet-natured film that wears its sentimental heart proudly on its sleeve. Kevin McNally and Gina McKee lead the cast but there’s a host of brief appearances from familiar faces like Steven Mackintosh, Anna Maxwell Martin and Stephen Mangan as we get closer to the mystery of who is spray-painting Eddie Loves Mary all over the place.


Grow Up

Ivan Madeira’s Grow Up serves as a really nice companion piece to Kate Tempest’s Wasted starring as it does Cary Crankson who appears in both. Grow Up is the precursor, a 10 minute blast through the trials of getting through the mundaneness of young adulthood and the onset of real life and responsibility. Lots of fun and full of astute observations.

Short Film Review #34

Korriró

The Icelandic Vesturport company are well known here for their theatre work – I’ve seen their collaborations on Faust and The Heart of Robin Hood – but they are also film producers, both long and short. The first of their shorts that I caught was Björn Hlynur Haraldsson’s Korriró as it starred two actors I’ve previously seen – Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir and Gísli Örn Garðarsson. Filippusdóttir plays a homeless woman who happens on an open garage door into a luxury home which offers a brief respite from the drudgery of her life. It is beautifully shot and uncompromisingly direct – confronting us all with our attitudes towards the homeless and those from whom we avert our gaze.


The Last Temptation of William Shaw

Described as a promotional trailer for the upcoming feature ‘My Power Animal is the Pigeon” (of which I can find no trace), The Last Temptation of William Shaw has the double whammy benefit of a shirtless Daniel Ings and an animated Ings too. A mixture of live action and animation from Alois Di Leo and Mat Rawlins, it’s only brief but intriguingly effective – I wonder if there’s any future life in the Pigeon. 

Gone to the Dogs

Liz Tuccillo’s Gone to the Dogs captures perfectly the most annoying aspects of the anthropomorphisation of having a dog, which seems to be becoming increasingly prevalent in our culture, whilst also managing to remind us of its sheer inconsequentiality. When a latecomer to a dinner party brings along her pooch as a plus one and brings him to the table, the scene is set for some serious debate about how far we’re willing to go for our animals and it is all engagingly good. Great stuff, and the presence of the ever-excellent Martha Plimpton makes it even better. 

Bloom

On paper, I ought to have really liked Bloom – a gentle rom-com in the making with shades of Little Shop of Horrors, but it never really quite manages to hit the mark. Amanda Root’s shy Helen is more than a little surprised when her tidy flat is taken over by marauding greenery and though she has never previously said a word to her neighbour, Richard Hope’s green-fingered Richard, it soon emerges he is her only hope. Emma Scott Robinson’s script doesn’t establish the characters well enough to make us care though and so it passes by amiably enough but never compelling. 

A Sunny Morning

Charlie Cox is one of those actors I wish I could see more of, he doesn’t work anywhere near enough for my liking (plus I haven’t gotten round to starting Boardwalk Empire yet) so I was glad to be able to spot him in a couple of shorts. Joseph Proctor’s A Sunny Morning is a simple two hander also starring Sophia Myles as a couple enter the aftermath of an argument with her having decided on something big. Clues are there – a copy of Hedda Gabler is on the nightstand next to her wedding ring – but as she and her husband chat, will her resolve falter? Cox is delightfully handsome as ever in his ruffled way but the film really belongs to Myles and her hugely expressive face, full of subtleties and emotion captured beautifully in Trevor Speed’s cinematography.

Review: Faust, Young Vic

“He will have to combine the rough with the smooth;
Only then will he find his Faustian groove”

Vesturport are an Icelandic theatre company whose innovative approach to theatre has seen them involve actors variously underwater, climbing up walls and clambering across ceilings and performing without makeup. Their new play, a free interpretation of Goethe’s Faust, is a co-production with Reykjavík City Theatre and has been chosen as one of the first plays in the Young Vic’s 40th anniversary season.

Starting off in an old people’s home at Christmastime and an attempted suicide by Jóhann, a gruff actor who after quite some persuasion begins to read the story of the one major role he has never played, Faust. It then riffs off on the Faust story as we know it, taking us on something of an epic journey, somewhat recognisable but at the same time completely different. This ends up as less an exercise in coherent, emotive storytelling than an exhilarating, acrobatics-filled rollercoaster of a production, set to music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (one of the Bad Seeds) that uses the space of the Young Vic like nothing I’ve seen before. Continue reading “Review: Faust, Young Vic”