Grand Projections: Scandinavian Cinema at Scandinavia House

By Jensen, Jytte | Scandinavian Review, Autumn 2000 | Go to article overview
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Grand Projections: Scandinavian Cinema at Scandinavia House

Jensen, Jytte, Scandinavian Review

The Victor Borge Hall at Scandinavia House offers a particularly advantageous venue in Manhattan for the presentation of the best in Scandinavian film and video. With its beautiful chairs and curtain of Scandinavian design, the state-of-the-art auditorium has a seating capacity of 169, with excellent sightlines, Dolby stereo sound system, the latest 35mm non-platter projection equipment, and advanced overhead video projection. An intimate theater such as this is an appropriate context in which to present the general public with the most celebrated and the most recent productions of Scandinavian cinema and works created on video. It also provides an appropriate place for New York's professional film community to discover and develop fruitful professional relationships with the talented new generations of image-makers from the Nordic countries. To pay homage to the history, stylistic variety, and continued innovation in moving images that reflect the multifaceted Scandinavian experience, Victor Borge Hall will host a wide array of original programming in film and video. The Hall will also be available for rental to film companies, providing them with a much-needed screening facility in the heart of Manhattan.

The Lens Opens on Iceland

The originality and specific strengths of the cinematic art as pursued in each of the Scandinavian countries will be introduced during the first year of programming. During this time, each country will be accorded a month to show its latest achievements. To highlight the special areas of interest and exploration that distinguish each Nordic country's artistic expression, each will hold a special gala screening for a film of choice, in some cases a premiere, followed by three Wednesday evenings in which to present additional film and video programs.

The celebration of Nordic film begins in November, when the spotlight shines on Iceland's enormously energetic contemporary film scene. For the gala opening Scandinavia House presents Angels of the Universe, the latest feature film by Iceland's internationally renowned director, Fridrik Th6r Fridriksson. This powerful film portrays Paul, a schizophrenic, as he struggles through life reacting to his environment of family, friends, the girl he loves, and his passionate - albeit somewhat deluded - companions in the psychiatric hospital. Filled with heartbreak and humor, the script's deeply felt characterizations are brought to life by marvelous actors. The film is graced by a finely balanced tone of intense emotional empathy and desperation.

Not satisfied with his many wonderful acting roles alone (his portrayal of Oli "Beatle" in Angels of the Universe is particularly moving), Balthasar Kormakur plays both the main character and takes the directing helm in 101 Reykjavik, based on an award-winning novel. A breakthrough feature debut, the taboo-busting drama tests the limits of family feeling (which, in this case, includes a Spanish flamenco teacher played by Victoria Abril). With the same cutting black humor, it also explores Reykjavik's by now famous intoxicating nightlife.

The well-known Icelandic filmmaker, Gudny Halldorsdottir, is represented by Honor of the House, a beautifully-realized film based on the novel by her father, Nobel Laureate Halldor Laxness. Exploring the complex relationship between two sisters in a family where honor is valued above everything else, the film's underlying tragedy is modulated to a perfect pitch with simplicity and humor. It features performances by several of the best loved actors and actresses of the Nordic countries.

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