The second in a regular series of columns by Chay Lemoine: Hollywood takes on Iceland
It was brought to my attention recently that Overture Films bought the remake rights to Icelandic film Jar City based on the novel by Arnaldur Indridason. There are plans to change the locale of the film to a small Louisiana town. I was born and raised in a small Louisiana community outside New Orleans and although I never thought I would see the two cultures merged on any level, it’s exciting both Iceland and Louisiana acknowledged as places of interest by the movie industry. What concerns me is that a runaway blockbuster could have disastrous results for Iceland’s film library and even its literature.
Hollywood is known for its lack of imagination and its penchant for sequels. A hit movie could mean all of Iceland’s film and literature would be rewritten to capitalize on the Louisiana angle. Bjartur from Laxness’ Independent People would be renamed Boudreaux and his poor croft would be a house on stilts in the swamp lands of Louisiana. He would stubbornly insist that he can make a living “crabbin” although all of his family is starving.
Academy Award nominee Children of Nature remake would feature an old Cajun couple who escape from a nursing home and steal a pirogue where they have a series of kind hearted adventures while paddling through the swamps. Icelandic mysticism that permeates the original film would be solved by having grandma use a Voodoo doll and a few straight pins to stop the progress of their pursuers.
One of my favourite Icelandic films, 101 Reykjavik would be translated as New Orleans 70112 and feature a slacker from the French Quarter who during an especially rigorous Mardi Gras celebration accidentally has sex with his Mother’s girlfriend and poor Trosclair has to deal with Oedipal anguish. Everywhere he goes he is told the old joke “If a man and wife from Louisiana divorce are they still brother and sister”. That of course only makes matters worse.
Even other Scandinavian literature would be in danger of a remake. Hoeg’s Smila’s Sense of Snow would become Aime Knows Dat Humidity. The film would feature a young Creole girl who solves the murder of a small Creole boy by her instinctual knowledge of the different degrees of dampness.
Icelanders have created some of the finest films in the world. It’s exciting that Hollywood is finally taking notice but I would advise a degree of caution. Perhaps Iceland should return the favour and remake American classics giving them a distinctly Icelandic slant. It would be refreshing to hear Dorothy tell her little dog, “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kirkjubaejarklaustur anymore.”
Chay Lemoine is an American scholar who, among other things, is a renowned Halldor Laxness expert. Chay will be writing a regular column called ‘The View from Here’ on IceNews where he will talk about Laxness, life, Iceland, and whatever else is on his mind.
(Main page photo: Still from Jar City from the Icelandic Film Centre)