Acclaimed actress Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, best known for “Woman at War,” is set to star in writer/director Ragnar Bragason’s dark comedy “The Garden.”
Currently in post-production and to be pitched at Haugesund’s New Nordic Films over Aug. 20-23, “The Garden” is Bragason’s sixth feature and his first one since the 2013 Toronto entry “Metalhead.”
“I did two plays in between and the TV series “Fangar” (“Prisoners” in English”),” said the director, known as well for his twin features “Children”/”Parents”, and the ‘Shift’ TV series. Based on Bragason’s own 2012 stage play “The Garden,” which ran for a year at the Reykjavik City Theatre to a sold-out crowd, the picture is a social realist satire set in Reykjavik in a large apartment block full of immigrants.
Sectarian Indiana Jónsdóttir lives off the public welfare state, and in her small private garden, tends to her award-winning laburnum tree. Johanna – her neighbor, daily cook and helper – suffers from severe back pains but stays positive. Indiana’s world is upended when her only son Unnar shows up with a Polish girlfriend.
Reprising their stage roles are “Trapped”’s Sigrún Edda Björnsdóttir as Indiana, Geirharðsdóttir, in a rare comedic role as Johanna, and “Prisoners”’ Hallgrímur Ólafsson as Unnar. Rounding out the cast is Polish actress Karolina Gruszka (“Inland Empire”). Lauding his actors, Ragnason says: “Halldóra has never really been used in comedy roles; people will be amazed by her performance. Sigrún is mostly famous for her stage work. I’m truly proud to have helped her to her perhaps her best screen performance ever.”
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Besides the social commentary, “The Garden” “is a very human story about people trying to find happiness”, said Bragason, whose visual inspiration comes in part from Douglas Sirk’s 1950s’ melodramas. Filmed on location in Reykjavik, and at Baltasar Kormákur’s RVK Studios, the film is produced by Iceland’s Mystery Productions (“Either Way”, “The Valhalla Murders”), in co-production with Poland’s Madants, RÚV, and with support from the Icelandic Film Centre, the Polish Film Institute, and Icelandic tax rebates.
Through the Polish ties, Ragnason was able to hire editor Michal Czarnecki, a contributor to Agnieszka Holland’s “Mr Jones”. Crew members on the Icelandic side include “Either Way”’s DoP Árni Filippusson, and “Adrift” production designer Heimir Sverrisson.
“The Garden” is set to open domestically in January 2020. A three-part mini-series is also lined up for RÚV, “to make full use of the extra material and perfect dynamics between the actors,” said Bragason. Next in his pipeline is Season 2 of “Fangar”, co-penned again by Margrét Örnólfsdóttir, with whom he shared a Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize nod in 2017. “The script is ready; we’re just waiting for our producers [Mystery Productions] to close the financing,” Bragason concluded.