Posted by: Ben Hopkins | 26/03/2010

Fangavaktin / The Prison Shift

Director: Ragnar Bragason
Year: 2009

The climax of The Day Shift seemed to herald the end of the friendship between unlikely friends Georg, Olafur and Daniel that was first established in a Reykjavik petrol station in The Night Shift. Georg has since earned himself an express ticket to the Litla-Hraun prison and Daniel was framed in the process, leaving Olafur in the dangerous predicament of living alone on the outside. It’s not too long before he is behind bars too, prompted, of course, by Georg’s actions.

Olafur's on the outside... for now

Like the second season of The Shift series, The Prison Shift creates another change in tone. This time around, with the confined setting harking back to the original series, the emphasis on characters outside of the core trio is more vital than ever. The most fully realised of these is Olafur’s new best friend Þröstur (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), a mountainous hardman with an endearingly sensitive undercurrent demonstrated by his love of horses. Bruce Banner’s maxim “you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” certains applies to Þröstur and his enfuriated freakout provides one of the highlights of the series. Also new is the omnipresent Ingvar E. Sigurdsson as artistic counterfeiter Viggo, who befriends Daniel as he struggles to adapt to life on the inside. Viggo seems underused, although as the series progresses it’s no surprise that there’s more to him than first appears. That leaves Björn Thors as Georg’s new underling Kenneth. Of the three main newcomers, Kenneth provides the most laughs even if he doesn’t really evade the sense that he’s a mere echo of the previous series’ Odinn.

The progression from minimal origins into richer layers and a full ensemble cast is best demonstrated by the strength of the third tier of characters. Daniel’s bully Ingvi is the most prominent, but a prison guard, seemingly plagued by nervous psoriasis is pushed to breaking point by Georg’s increasing demands, could well have developed into a major character in his own right.

Pétur Jóhann Sigfússon and Ragnar Bragason on set

The Prison Shift’s style of comedy seems much more conservative this time around and, at just seven episodes, there’s less scope for its dramatic reach to flourish as brilliantly as it did in The Day Shift. But neither is it a weak link. Its portrayal of acute social embarassment is as strong as ever (particularly in Georg’s ability to make himself the prison’s hate figure), but it impresses most with its emotional power. Without giving too much away, it’s brave enough to embrace a concluding sense of miserablism but that’s countered with the sweetest moment in The Shift series when Olafur presents Þröstur with a departing gift. And just as The Day Shift countered Georg and Daniel’s fate with an uplifting closing shot, The Prison Shift repeats the trick to even greater effect.

While this concludes The Shift series, there’s more to come in the shape of hit movie Mr. Bjarnfredarson.

The Prison Shift can be purchased online at Nammi.

Ingvi: “What’s your team Daniel?”
Daniel: “None in particular, just Liverpool I guess.”
Ingvi: “Liverpool is a loser team. We clearly have a problem.”


  1. All 3 films Fangavaktin, Dagvaktin and the first film Næturvaktin are still available on DVD.

    You can find these title and much more at

  2. Yes, really.

  3. […] one of the writers behind Næturvaktin / The Night Shift, its sequels Dagvaktin / The Day Shift and Fangavaktin / The Prison Shift, as well as the Bjarnfreðarson […]

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