ICELAND IN LIVING PICTURES: A MEETING-PLACE OF CINEMA AND NATION
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Icelandic cinema has received considerable international attention in recent years. Numerous films have garnered awards at film festivals and subsequently been distributed far and wide - even critics and scholars have begun to take notice. This article approaches an altogether different Icelandic cinema. One that not only dates much further back in time, but also one whose ambitions were inherently national and devoid of global aspirations-although an important exception is discussed in the essay as well. Divided into two parts; the former addresses films of documentary nature, tracing a thread from the oldest extant film to so-called 'Iceland-films', which developed during the interwar era into the first local films directed at foreign audiences, while the latter follows the trajectory of narrative 'thorn' lms leading up to the instigation of the Icelandic Film Fund in 1978 (heralding Icelandic cinema's modern phase), but conversely expressed at no point any interest in foreign appreciations. Remarkably, the key figures of both documentary filmmaking and that of narrative feature filmmaking were the same: Loftur Gudmundsson and Oskar Gislason. The essay addresses their authorship in terms of both subject matters and film style during a period extending from 1923 to 1954. These were times of dramatic upheaval in Iceland (as obviously most anywhere else) that included the instigation of the Republic in 1944, modernization and urbanization, and the essay offers ample evidence on how these influenced the filmmaking of the era. Theoretically, the essay draws upon the works of Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer amongst others in drawing out the film medium's specificity - not least its affnities with the past. In this, it also offers some ideas on the nature of cinema with a broad applicability despite dealing specifically with a little known period of a little known national cinema.
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