Saturday, September 26, 2009

Land and Sons: Scandinavia House, October 1 and 3, 2009 (screenings cancelled)

Scandinavia House, whose fine weekly screenings are one of the better kept secrets of the NYC film scene, is showing Ágúst Guðmundsson's 1980 Land og synir (Land and Sons) as part of its current Icelandic film series. I saw the film at Filmex 81, and wrote about it in the L.A. Reader at the time: "An intelligent, quietly graceful debut by director-screenwriter Ágúst Guðmundsson, which deserves better than to be known as the most successful Icelandic film. The story deals with a subject also treated in Bergman's Faro Document 1979: the younger generation's unwillingness to continue working the often-unprofitable farms that were a way of life to the parents. A restless son (Sigurður Sigurjónsson), prepared to leave Iceland for the Danish mainland, is given pause by his awareness of tradition and his awakening love for his neighbor's daughter (Guðný Ragnarsdóttir). The film's great virtue is the calm and gravity with which it treats this dilemma: Guðmundsson's thoughtful, literate script provides each of the characters with his or her own respectable justifications, and the awesome Icelandic landscape and the parable-like narrative unobtrusively create a mood of universality. Land and Sons is not the type of film to create a stir at a film festival, but it manages to be effectively entertaining as it slowly unfolds its understated despair." It screens on Thursday, October 1 at 6:30 pm and Saturday, October 3 at 3 pm.

Later that same day: thanks to Kevin Helfenbein for pointing out to me that Scandinavia House has cancelled its screenings of Land og synir, and has substituted Guðmundsson's 2001 Mávahlátur (The Seagull's Laughter), which had a brief theatrical run in NYC in early 2004. Mávahlátur isn't a bad film at all, actually: the story, about a small Icelandic town adjusting to a now-glamorous native daughter returned from the US, could have easily skewed noncomformist/middlebrow, but Guðmundsson fills it with nice behavioral touches. Still, I'm sorry not to get another look at Land og synir.

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