2013 | 15′ | short fiction | HD | 1:1.85 | Icelandic | color
Written & Directed by Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson
In Iceland, depending on the season, the days or nights can be excruciatingly long. While the sun highlights the pastoral landscapes, the utter lack of it makes the mountainous shadows grow longer and darker. It’s no overstatement to say this affects the moods of the people. For filmmaker Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson, who grew up in rural Iceland in a small fishing village, the darkness and the societal pressure to be a “strong” man were isolating. Many in his town and a few friends have succumbed to suicide as a means for escape. For Guðmundsson, he luckily found film as a source of catharsis, using it as a means to filter his feelings. “Whale Valley,” for instance, was manifested from a series of dreams that he experienced. “Whale Valley” opens on an isolated farm in rural Iceland, as a seven-year-old boy accidentally interrupts his older brother’s suicide attempt. Less shocked and more upset, the younger boy reluctantly agrees to keep his brother’s secret in hopes that they’ll reconcile.
With a deft hand and a remarkable sense of mise en scène, Guðmundsson captures lightning in a bottle with these young actors in the rugged landscape of Iceland. Each frame could be a painting, yet the beauty in it is dark, wet and lonesome. Against this backdrop and with the hard physical labor and quiet life of the family, many of the film’s most potent emotions simmer under the surface, never overtly expressed, similar to the boys’ themselves. This stunning short film is now having its online premiere after garnering a Special Mention at the Cannes Film Festival and won over 50 international awards.
Read Jeffery Bowers interview on VIMEO