I was sure I had seen Mávahlátur already, and that it was a Friðrik Thor Friðriksson film from a book by Einar Kárasson. But since films in Icelandic are rare enough as it is, and shown on Swedish TV in the original with subtitles, and I have a new EyeTV bought to watch the Olympics on my Mac with, I decided to watch.

Had I seen it? I still don't know. It was, of course, by Ágúst Guðmundsson, the Godfather of modern Icelandic film, and it was a filming of the book of the same name (The Seagull's Laughter) by Kristin Marja Baldursdóttir . And either the book was so vivid, or I really had seen the movie before - it just flowed. It did win a minor prize at the Lübeck Nordic Film Festival in 2002 and some Edda awards, so I really may have seen it pre-blog.

The story is told from the perspective of Agga, a young girl in a household full of women. The grandfather, a seaman, only comes home to read the papers and have a good smoke. He can't stand all the womenfolk, so he sets off for sea as soon as possible.

Freyja has come home - back from the USA, where her American soldier husband has died under mysterious circumstances. She brings lots of luggage filled with fine clothes back with her to this poor country and moves in with her mother's foster mother until she can find another husband.

It is a true Icelandic film - great landscape (Hafnarfjördur), elves, stones that move in the wind, fish, a mysterious woman. Oh, wait - no men pissing. Must be because the story was written by a woman. Anyway - lots of family secret stuff, secret love, affairs, alcohol, class problems in a supposedly classless society. And a girl growing up into a woman. And the classic Icelandic solution to any kind of problem: how about a cup of freshly-brewed coffee?

A nice drama with some little Águst-jokes: pictures of Freyja and Björn Theódór taken from the camera's perspective, with the camera falling over; the colors in the film reminiscent of early color films; a Danish maid (normally it is the other way around, Icelandic girls serving as maids in Denmark).

The film is from 2001, so it probably won't make the German circuit, although the book was rather a success in Germany, I gather. But if your local European film festival is showing it - do see it: it twists and turns and in the end you really still are not sure what is up.

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