×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Dance

In structure a memory play, "The Dance" is an effective ghost story, handsomely produced and professionally realized. Filmmaker August Gudmundsson brings enough novel twists to the familiar mix to engage upscale crowds and score international dates outside Scandinavia. Pic should also find OK niche response in ancillary exploitation.

With:
Sirsa ..... Palina Jonsdottir Harald ..... Dofri Hermannsson Ivar ..... Baldur Trausti Hreinsson Peter ..... Gunnar Helgason Anna Linda ..... Kristina Sundar Hansen Nicholas ..... Gisli Halldorsson Deacon Sigvaldi ..... Arnar Jonsson

In structure a memory play, “The Dance” is an effective ghost story, handsomely produced and professionally realized. Filmmaker August Gudmundsson brings enough novel twists to the familiar mix to engage upscale crowds and score international dates outside Scandinavia. Pic should also find OK niche response in ancillary exploitation.

Story is set on a sparsely populated island in 1913. Narrator Peter (Gunnar Helgason) recalls the time when the lonely outpost was invaded by mainlanders attending a wedding celebration. The free-spirited Sirsa (Palina Jonsdottir) is about to be united with Harald (Dofri Hermannsson), son of the island’s most prosperous landowner. It seems an odd match of temperaments, with the young, flirtatious woman more obviously suited to the charismatic Ivar (Baldur Trausti Hreinsson). But the wedding ceremony proceeds without a hitch and the revelry commences.

The festivities are interrupted when news arrives that offshore a ship is sinking — not an uncommon occurrence in this grave site of the Atlantic. The men depart on a rescue mission that nets several sailors, including the doomed craft’s captain and engineer. After shaking off their oilskins, the men resume their positions in the circle for the next dance.

With a storm raging, the men from the ship are full of foreboding, but the natives take it in stride, even entertaining the idea of a latenight, illegal salvage party to pilfer the waterlogged cargo.

When news reaches the party that the engineer has died, the local clergyman asks the guests to stop the dance out of respect for the departed seaman. Sirsa protests, but Harald and the old liners cower before the demand — a mistake that all will come to rue.

The title conjures up several metaphors but clearly underlines the ritual nature of the gathering, whose momentum is stopped in its tracks. The interruption causes the participants to find other ways of completing the rite of passage — none particularly a testament to human virtue.

Some of the young men set out for the ship, others for a drunken spree at a cottage on the other end of the island; some partygoers pursue the opposite sex, and Sirsa cozies up to Ivar only partly because of her new husband’s decision to curtail the wedding festivities.

Whether it’s magic or deviltry in the air, the manmade mischief deftly segues into the forces of nature that batter the island. The elders express shame and anger over the conduct of the wedding party, but the filmmaker views the antics as an organic process in this environment, in which a jacket can mystically transform into a soaring eagle.

Gudmundsson, whose early-1980s films “Land and Sons” and “The Outlaw” were bellwethers of an emerging Icelandic cinema, returns to film after a decade-long absence. There’s a maturity to his work and a controlled story sensibility that puts one at ease in such capable hands. Helmer’s graceful, precise style contrasts sharply with the howling winds and fierce rains that pummel the characters.

Tech credits are richly hued and amplified by a haunting score that incorporates traditional folk music. The cast is vividly drawn, down to the tiniest part. Jonsdottir is a sensuous presence, while those who play her suitors ably convey contrasting lifestyles but a humanity cut from the same bolt of cloth.

The Dance

(PERIOD DRAMA -- ICELANDIC)

Production: An Isfilm/Oxford Film Co./Nordisk/Hamburger Kino Kompanie production. (International sales: The Sales Co., London.) Produced, directed by August Gudmundsson. Co-producers, Andy Patterson, Erik Crone, Dschingis Bowakow. Screenplay, Gudmundsson, Kristin Atladottir, based on the short story "We Must Dance" by William Heinesen.

Crew: Camera (color), Ernie Vincze; editors, Elisabet Ronaldsdottir, Valdis Oskarsdottir; music, Kai Dorenkamp, Jurgen Peukert, Rainer Grunebaum; production designer, Tonie Jan Zetterstrom, Halldor Thorgeirsson. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 14, 1998. Running time: 86 MIN.

With: Sirsa ..... Palina Jonsdottir Harald ..... Dofri Hermannsson Ivar ..... Baldur Trausti Hreinsson Peter ..... Gunnar Helgason Anna Linda ..... Kristina Sundar Hansen Nicholas ..... Gisli Halldorsson Deacon Sigvaldi ..... Arnar Jonsson

More Film

  • 'Self-Portrait With Boy' in Development at

    'Self-Portrait With Boy' in Development at Topic Studios

    Topic Studios (“Leave No Trace”) has bought rights to Rachel Lyon’s debut novel “Self-Portrait With Boy” and plans to develop the project as a feature film. Lyon will adapt her own novel. John Lyons (“Boogie Nights”), who recently signed a first-look deal with Topic Studios, has come on board to produce. The story is set [...]

  • Ventana Sur Animation Panel Focuses On

    Ricardo Cortes Vera Talks Audience-Driven Content at Ventana Sur

    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Ricardo Cortes Vera, commissioning editor for Señal Colombia, introduced the audience-driven children’s content his company is renowned for in hopes of encouraging a crowd of animators into submitting their own work to the channel. He did so in a keynote address given Tuesday afternoon in Buenos Aires, at the Animation! strand [...]

  • Films by Francois Ozon, Fatih Akin

    Berlin Film Festival: New Films by Francois Ozon, Fatih Akin, Denis Cote in Competition

    New films by Francois Ozon, Fatih Akin and Denis Cote are among the titles that will compete for the Golden Bear at the upcoming Berlin Film Festival. German director Akin’s “Der Goldene Handschuh” (“The Golden Glove”) and French helmer Ozon’s “Grâce à dieu” (“By the Grace of God”) were announced by the Berlinale in its [...]

  • Picture Tree Sells Berlin Competition Film

    Picture Tree Sells Berlin Competition Title 'The Ground Beneath My Feet'

    Picture Tree Intl. is on board as the sales agent for “The Ground Beneath My Feet” (Der Boden Unter Den Füssen), which the Berlin Film Festival revealed Thursday will be in its main competition section. The Austrian drama, directed by Marie Kreutzer, stars Valerie Pachner, Mavie Hörbiger and Pia Hierzegger. The film centers on high-powered [...]

  • Katherine Jerkovic on FiGa Films-Sold Debut

    Ventana Sur: Katherine Jerkovic On Personal References, Icebergs, and Whispered Truths

    Canada-born with roots in Uruguay, Croatia and Argentina, Katherine Jerkovic split her childhood between Belgium and Uruguay. At 18, she settled in Montreal and studied film at Concordia University. After a few shorts (“The Winter’s Keeper”) and some video-installations, she has finished her first feature, “Roads in February.” The film is a co-production between Nicolas [...]

  • 1844 Ent, Distrib Films To Release

    1844 Ent. Acquires North America on Alejandro Fadel’s ‘Murder Me, Monster’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — 1844 Entertainment, an emerging player on the U.S. distribution scene, has acquired North American rights to Argentine writer-director Alejandro Fadel’s “Muere monstruo muere” (“Murder Me, Monster”), sold by The Match Factory.      The deal was negotiated by 1844 Entertainment’s Tommaso Cerqueglini, The Match Factory’s Michael Weber and Thania Dimitrakopoulou.   As [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content