Heartstone: The summer that will change your life
by Vittoria Scarpa
- VENICE 2016: Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson’s debut film centres around two teenagers in the delicate and cruel transition to adulthood, and is the first Icelandic film to feature at the festival
It’s a film of ‘first times’: for its director, for its young protagonists, and for Iceland at Venice. Heartstone [+see also:
interview: Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson
film profile], in competition at Venice Days, is Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson’s debut piece, but it’s also the first film to be shown by Iceland at the Venice Film Festival, and tells the story of two teenagers getting to grips with the delicate and cruel transition to adulthood. A subject that has been heavily explored in film, but that focuses here on self-discovery and sexuality, which can prove to be problematic, describing the stages involved with great subtlety.
It’s summer, we’re in a fishing village in Eastern Iceland, far from the capital of Reykjavik, and there’s not much to do for Thor and his inseparable friend Christian (young newcomers Baldur Einarsson and Blær Hinriksson). They fish for fish they will never catch, destroy old cars, look at sexy picture cards with a magnifying glass, and count the hairs growing on their chests (still very few). That’s the focal point of their attentions, their bodies as they change, and which they would like to change a lot more quickly: Thor looks at himself in the mirror, flexing his muscles and blowing passionate kisses. He tries to find spaces he can be on his own at home, but this is made impossible by his two sisters, who are older than him and never miss an opportunity to provoke him, humiliate him and strip him bare (in the truest sense of the word).
Thor and Christian, the latter of whom is older and more protective, are also the butt of jokes as they’re always together, like a pair of lovers. Things that happen at that age, everyday provocations among peers. When the two boys start going out with Beth and Hanna, however, their paths start to diverge: the former discovers love, the second feels increasingly close to his friend. And so, the more Thor feels in seventh heaven, the more Christian falls into despair, with devastating consequences on their lives. From the world of games to self-awareness, the transition will be hard, shocking and painful. And with another winter just around the corner, nature – the immense green spaces, the impetuous sea, the rain that seems to melt the characters away, and finally the snow – is there to bear witness to the end of a bright and happy season. A delicate and heartfelt story of friendship that successfully conveys the problems of an age at which it sometimes seems like your worst enemy is yourself.
(Translated from Italian)