For us researchers working on the Icelandic team of Arctic Encounters, it has been extremely interesting to follow the latest Icelandic television series: Ófærð (Trapped), directed by Baltasar Kormákur, Baldvin Z, Börkur Sigþórsson, Óskar Thór Axelsson, written by Sigurjón Kjartansson and Clive Bradley, and funded by the Icelandic Film Fund and the European Union. We’d like to follow up with a short response to the latest blog from Graham Huggan as the series happens to weave nicely into one of our current writing projects, which presently carries the title: ‘“Iceland is fucking pretentious”: Gendered Images, Films and Tourism in Iceland’.
Before the programme was first aired, we had been discussing and writing about the ways in which various Icelandic visual narratives and representations in Icelandic films – and tourism media – seemed to fit squarely within the genre of Nordic Noir, with a strong focus on what might be called “Arctic themes”. Banalities such as cold climate, darkness, melancholia, hyper-masculine stereotypes (e.g. Vikings, Venture-Vikings, Hipster-Vikings), odd and heavily bearded hermits dressed in lopapeysa (woollen sweaters) appear in combination with various other (often absurd or even ironic) extremes in landscape, weather, drinking habits or “national characteristics”. The ten-part series was extremely popular both in Iceland and abroad with a particularly noteworthy and handsome role being played by leading man Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, shown above in all of his character Andri’s bearded glory.
According to director Baltasar Kormákur, the actor was chosen for the leading role because he looks like one of the looming mountains in the Icelandic fjords. Perhaps up to a point he is right. But apart from observing Ólafur Darri’s impressive performance, we have been focusing on whether and how Iceland as an Arctic/exotic tourist destination is being presented in the programme and how various themes and threads therein can be traced back to earlier texts (e.g. travel writings of the Middle Ages) and various other visual narrations of the North. We’ll address this a bit more in depth in our forthcoming article – whether or not its title remains the same.
Katrín Anna Lund