The first Icelandic film to fall under the focus of the University of Washington Press’s Nordic Film Classics series is Björn Nordfjörd’s examination of Dagur Kari’s Nói albínói.
Nordfjörd, an assistant professor and Director of Film Studies at The University of Iceland, breaks down the film’s main themes of isolation (both in terms of the individual and in Icelandic geography) and nihilism. Naturally these are topics that almost every viewer will grasp, yet Nordfjörd builds from these basic tenets to discuss the finer layers of meanings and influences that lurk under the film’s surface.
While this is essentially an academic tome, the language utilised is almost entirely accessible to the layman – there’s little or no jargon at play. Neither does one need a specialist’s knowledge of Icelandic cinema. Nordfjörd’s observations about the origins of the nation’s film industry are interesting enough, but most of the parallels he draws are with comparatively well known titles such as 101 Reykjavik or Cold Fever. In fact, many of the references he refers to are taken from altogether more famous works from non-cinematic disciplines. Cramming in some quotes from Ray Davies of The Kinks labours the point a little, but on the whole these give his analysis a more accessible quality.
As much as Nordfjörd’s study offers various insights which add to the comprehension of the film (notably the history of similar natural disasters in Iceland), the inclusion of an extensive interview with Kari is probably the book’s most insightful element. It’s certainly fascinating to read the director’s fondness for The Simpsons which, he says, informed this film. Springfield’s possession of one of everything – one policeman, one school, one nuclear power plant – is reflected in his desolate village’s single bank, single museum, single book store.
The book itself is well presented, the only noticeable drawback being the replication of some of the images. With lots of fascinatingly framed shots, it’s a pity that must of the detail is lost in the grainy monochrome photos that scatter the pages. Regardless, Nordfjörd’s mission statement – to further the appreciation and understanding of a film unusual in setting if familiar in theme – is well realised.