Director: Fridrik Thor Fridriksson
It’s a common trait of Icelandic films to depict an outsider discovering the joys and oddities of the country. It’s also relatively common to see an Icelandic venture abroad. What Falcons provides that’s a little different is both treks in the same story.
Fresh out of prison, depressed American Simon (Keith Carradine) heads to Iceland, the land of his mother’s birth, where he meets Dúa (Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir), a younger women who he suspects to be his daughter. After an incident with the law, they flee to Germany with the plan of selling Dúa’s rare Icelandic falcon for a small fortune.
It’s a promising premise which doesn’t come close to fulfilling its potential. The central problem is the sketchy characterisation and the disconnection between their motivations and the events that follow. Simon is a no-nonsense type (read: he gets into scrapes that he doesn’t need to) while Dúa is a free spirit (read: she has no concept of the value of money and believes in dubious mysticism). Why does Simon head to Iceland solely to commit suicide? Why does Dúa almost immediately accept the presence of a stranger with a chequered past? Why is Ingvar E. Sigurðsson’s cop so sleazy and aggressive? With so much unexplained (or more likely, inadequately explained) it’s hard to build any empathy with this two-way road trip. Even the unlikely couple’s trip to Germany seems entirely motivated by the film’s funding as, beyond some lurid shots of the Hamburg nightlife, it adds very little substance to the tale.
Surprisingly, Iceland’s famous natural has been more depicted with more seductive beauty than it is here, although the opening shot of the approach to a seemingly desolate airport runway is memorable.
The film’s main strength is the unity between Carradine and Vilhjálmsdóttir. Their interplay is naturalistic and builds some of the conviction lost in the narrative, while their personal performances possess an almost nostalgic sense of American coolness (Carradine) and a beacon of positivity in a predominantly downbeat encounter (Vilhjálmsdóttir). Yet when Simon records his inner turmoil straight to dictaphone, it’s a device so banal as to undermine its very meaning; it’s a microcosmic representation of a promising if very frustrating film.