Rock 'n Roll comes to Iceland
Professor Joseph L. McCauley | Austria+Texas | 02/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie ca. 1995 in Oslo with Norwegian subtitles, the only Icelandic movie I know and a shame I haven't had the chance to see others. The movie depicts the relative wealth and attractiveness of American servicemen from Keflavik in the context of the extreme poverty of Icelanders living in an old quanset hut. The Icelanders can, of course, speak some English and the Americans can, also realistically, speak no Icelandic. Big, loud old American cars, rock and roll, and the desire to escape the crushing poverty. The film is memorable, and for another Icelandic viewpoint on the early drive toward globalization, read "The Atom Station" by Haldor Laxness.Icelandic is a beautiful language, essentially the Norwegian of a thousand years ago, the Viking era. I don't understand it but wish I did!"
Escaping Icelandic Poverty...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 04/23/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In the years after World War II the American military forces keep a base on an Icelandic island, however, they move it away from Reykjavik. The abandoned barracks are offered to the homeless of Iceland as they can seek shelter from the biting winters. The Devil's Island depicts the poor people in this area, where they live, and how they deal with daily struggles where hope of leaving seems like a wishful dream. Nonetheless, there are always ways of escaping the nagging pain of poverty, and those who escape the social environment are either hated or adored. Devil's Island is an interesting film about a situation that many never would have known of unless Fridrikkson directed this film, which offers a good cinematic experience."
A Depressing Film Well Acted and Directed
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 12/03/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a depressing, largely nonjudgmental film about a family which probably would be called trailer trash if they lived in America instead of Iceland. It's the Fifties, and Devil's Island is the name of a former U. S. military base near Reykjavik the Americans have abandoned. It has become the home of hundreds of poor Icelanders as families have moved into the decaying quonset huts. Cast-off lumber, sheets of tin, rocks and trash litter the place. It's too cold for mud, but pools of icy water collect along the dirt streets. There's not a speck of green anywhere.
Among the families is a grim, elderly, harsh grandmother who believes she can predict the future, her unhappy, unshaven husband, their loose-living daughter with two sons and a daughter of her own. In time the grandparents see their daughter marry an American serviceman and move to Kansas City. They continue to live in the squalor of Devil's Island with their grandchildren. Time passes. Then one of the sons, Baddi (Baltasar Kormakus), a selfish grown delinquent with lots of attitude, flies off to visit his mother and her now well-off husband. He returns with a used red Cadillac with fins, a leather jacket, a greasy pompadour, dark glasses and with no respect for anyone except Elvis Presley. His brother, Dani (Sveian Geirsson), however, is shy, quiet and stays close to home. Baddi drinks, carouses and makes life hell for everyone. He usually brings his drunken buddies and their girls back home to continue to party. Dani eventually breaks away, learns to fly and begins to assert himself. By the end of the movie one major character is dead and not much about the family, the quality of their life or the trouble and unpleasantness that Baddi brings with him in everything he does has changed. Baddi doesn't appear to have learned anything except self-pity, and is probably going to slip even further into alcholism-fueled depression. The quonset huts now are being torn down and the families of Devil's Island are being moved into multi-floor concrete apartment boxes which look even more character-destroying than what they are replacing.
This is a movie that is part black-comedy, but there's not much to smile at. Devil's Island is more often harsh than gentle, more often ironic than humorous. The look of the film is outstanding, but it places you in a physical environment you wouldn't want to visit much less live in. The redeeming qualities center around Dani, who manages to find a life after being overshadowed for years by his brother's braggadocio, and by the grandfather, Tomi, played by Gisli Halldorsson. The last shot of the movie is of Tomi walking away toward a job, whistling. There may not be much to whistle about in his life, but he finds something. I'm glad I watched the movie and I don't regret buying it, but I'm not sure how many times I'll return to it. The DVD transfer is very good."
EriKa | Iceland | 03/23/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Ultimately this is a kind of cautionary tale about embracing excesses to the point of self-destruction and also seeing the true goodness in people. As Americans begin leaving some WWII era barracks empty in post-war Iceland, Icelanders begin occupying them. Coming to terms with their new-found independence, Iceland looks to move forward... Some Icelanders embrace American ways and indeed Americans, even marrying them and moving to the US. In the story, two young men, Baddi and Danni are reared by their grandparents as their mother marries an American and moves to the States. The well-known Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur plays Baddi, the more gregarious of the two brothers. Danni, played by Sveinn Geirsson, is more reserved but more sensitive. Baddi eventually leaves to go to America, and when he returns with his "cool American clothes and car" he brings with him a certain appeal, otherness, likeability. He becomes instantly popular and the object of worship for the not so well off population of the barracks. A certain status is conferred upon him because he has attained a kind of worldliness the others can only dream about. Danni lives in Baddi's shadow, and for all of Baddi's endless talk of moving to America and achieving all these high falutin' dreams, Danni's quiet sensitivity and intensity pay off. Overlooked he might be, but he does achieve his dreams, while Baddi lets the excess he lives in go to his head, and he wastes his life becoming a lazy, violent, intimidating drunk. He also becomes rather jealous of Danni's success, but would never put in the hard work and perseverance Danni invested to make his dreams come true. The story does not have the happiest of endings, but it is nevertheless an interesting period piece with a kind of "lesson" and an excellent introduction/overview of Iceland during the inception of its independence."