Review: Heartstone (Hjartasteinn)

Heartstone (Hjartasteinn)

Anxiety-filled, stimulating and dull could describe those distressingly fabulous years between twelve and twenty.  HEARTSTONE, Icelandic writer-director Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson’s first feature-length film, has managed to capture all of this. The story was partially inspired by his own experience: “The village was an environment full of contrasts, where the sun shines without rest during the summer and barely rises at all in winter. A place where the same things you love and give you freedom also tie you down. The years of our youth reflect our lives in a very clear, beautiful, and often harsh manner.”

The heart of the film is the friendship between two teenage boys, Thor (Baldur Einarsson) and Christian (Blær Hinriksson).  Best friends and neighbours, they live in a remote Icelandic fishing village where during a summer they are left to their own devices and largely ignored by their parents, who are navigating their own problems. An ambivalent pursuit of a girl called Beta (Diljá Valsdóttir), unsettles their simple friendship. From the impressive fishing in the first scene to mountain camping, the strong visual aesthetic of a wild Iceland stands out.

The film has vividly depicted not only the estrangement that takes place between parents and children, but the risks and negotiations that take place in adolescent relationships, thick with attraction and desire. The underlying core is the ambiguous bonds people share that can be trustworthy and binding, or harmful.

Gudmundsson developed and wrote his first feature film HEARTSTONE during a Cannes Cinéfondation Residency due to his successful short film Whale Valley (2013), which received a Special Mention in the Official Competition of the Cannes Film Festival. HEARTSTONE was screened in the Discovery section at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and won the Queer Lion at the 73rd Venice Film Festival. It was also nominated for the 2017 Nordic Council Film Prize.


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