Jar City (Mýrin)

Ingvar E. Sigurdsson
'Jar City' is the fourth feature film by the established actor/filmmaker/ producer Baltasar Kormákur, and the second one he adapted from a novel. 'Mýrin' the crime novel was written by Arnaldur Indriðason, one of today´s most successful Icelandic novelists.

The film tells the story of an elderly man who is found murdered in his basement flat. Put on the case, Inspector Erlendur discovers that many years ago the victim was accused, though not convicted, of horrible crimes.

He follows a trail of unusual forensic evidence, uncovering secrets larger than the murder of one old man, with clues knit into the genetic bloodline of an entire country.

"With 'Mýrin', it was the first time I read a crime novel that I believed in, and it had believable premises for Iceland", says Kormákur.

The screen adaptation was more difficult than with my previous adaptation from a novel, '101 Reykjavik', because of the genre. I wanted to keep the tension and at the same time turn the thriller around so that it wouldn´t be too predictable. I found a way to tackle the script, writing the story in two layers: there is the story of the killer, and at the same time the explanation about why he has become a killer. The protagonist is not just a crazy killer. He has become a murderer because of something traumatic that happened to him. You almost like him as an individual and understand him in a way".

Released domestically in October last year, the film became an instant hit, breaking all records for a local film in Iceland (over 80,000 admissions).

"Icelandic thrillers are not very common in Iceland, so it was important for me to approach this genre in a way to get the audience excited about it. I think the film attracted a lot of attention because it goes beyond the thriller.

Like 'Mystic River', it goes beyond the genre, and it now seems to have started a new wave. "The film´s success in Iceland was also due to the fact that it is very Icelandic. The music for instance is old folk songs that give goose bumps to Icelandic people because it reminds them of their childhood. I also show forgotten parts of Iceland.

Today, our country is wealthy, but there is still 20% of the nation that hasn´t changed or benefited from our economic boom. I wanted to show that other face of Iceland".  "Connecting with the audience is important to me, but I also tried to make 'Jar City' as an art house film because it travels much better that way".

And indeed, the film´s international career is now taking off. At the last Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in July, the film won the Crystal Globe for Best Film and the Don Quixote Prize from the International Federation of Film Societies.

It recently screened in Toronto in the Contemporary World Cinema Section and at the Telluride Film Festival in the US.

Filmmaker/Scriptwriter/Producer Baltasar Kormákur

Born in 1966, Baltasar Kormákur is a household name in his native Iceland. A graduate from Iceland´s Drama Academy, he has become a major star and a leading figure among actors of the new generation over the last 15 years.

He has worked at home and abroad with filmmakers such as Fridrik Thór Fridriksson ('Angels of the Universe'), or Hal Hartley ('No Such Thing'). As a stage director, he has put together more than a dozen plays from the classical repertoire or musicals such as 'Hair' or 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'.

His debut as a filmmaker/scriptwriter was in 2000 with '101 Reykjavik' starring Victoria Abril.

The film became an international hit and won the Discovery of the Year Award in Toronto the same year. He went on to direct 'The Sea' in 2002, and was lured to Hollywood three years later to direct 'A Little Trip to Heaven' starring Forest Whitaker.

Back on home turf in 2006, Kormákur gave Iceland its biggest local hit with 'Jar City' which won Best Film and Best Director at the Icelandic ‘Eddas´ 2006 (local Oscars).

Kormakur set up his own production house Blueeyes Productions in 2000 with Lilja Palmadottir.

Producer Agnes Johansen

A former TV host for children´s programmes, in 1991 until 1996 Johansen was appointed Director of Children´s Programming for the private broadcaster Channel 2.

Between 1996 and 1997, she worked on a freelance basis on various projects in Poland and in the UK where she ended up as Head of Production for Saga Film.

She served as Iceland´s representative at Eurimages, the Council of Europe fund for the co-production, distribution and exhibition of European cinematographic works.

She was involved in the development and promotion of various projects including Magnus Scheving´s 'Lazytown'.

She met Baltasar Kormákur in 2001 and worked as line producer on his film 'The Sea'. She joined Blueeyes Productions in August 2002.

Her production or co-production credits for Blueeyes include Sólveig Anspach´s 'Stormy Weather' (2003) co-produced with France ('Ex-Nihilo') and Belgium ('Les films du fleuve'), Silja Hauksdottir´s 'Dis' (2004), Kormákur´s 'A Little Trip to Heaven' (2005) and now 'Jar City'. Johansen was Iceland´s Producer on the Move in 2004.

Director/scriptwriter

Baltasar Kormákur

Cast

Ingvar E. Sigurdsson, Agusta Eva Erlendsdóttir, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Atli Rafn Sigurdarson

Producers

Agnes Johansen, Lilja Pálmadóttir and Baltasar Kormákur (Blueeyes Productions)

Local distribution

Sena Film

International sales

Trust Film Sales

Jar City (Mýrin)