Icelandic Tiger Black’s Game roars in Rotterdam
The debut feature of Icelandic director Óskar Thór Axelsson, the Reykjavik underworld saga Black's Game [+see also:
film profile] is one of 15 films that are part of the Tiger Competition at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, which is currently under way.
Executive produced by Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn, who won the Best Director accolade at Cannes last year for his Drive, the film does bring to mind Refn’s early work, in particular the Pusher [+see also:
film profile] trilogy.
Set around the turn of the millennium, Black’s Game follows poor Stebbi (Thorvaldur David Kristjansson), who has been arrested for being involved in a bar brawl he can hardly remember. When he’s charged with aggravated assault, he asks his childhood friend, Tóti (Johannes Haukur Johannesson), to help him get a good lawyer but the shady Tóti asks him for a favour in return that quickly plunges him deeper and deeper into the world of drugs and other lucrative criminal activities.
The film was adapted by the director from the novel Black Curse by Stefán Máni and is, according to its opening credits “based on some shit that actually happened”.
Certainly, the realistic tone represents one of the film’s major plusses. Even with the almost obligatory-feeling nods to directors Tarantino, Guy Ritchie and many (mainly American) drug-running tales, the story remains grounded in a recognisable Icelandic reality that adds to its believability and sets it somewhat apart from its brethren.
Whereas a local hit crime film such as Jar City was an extremely polished exercise in genre filmmaking, Axelsson’s debut feature does things down and dirty, assaulting viewers with split screens, voice-overs, dimly lit interiors and exteriors (the film is set during the Nordic winter) and handheld footage.
The film was produced by Zik Zak Filmworks and is sold internationally by TrustNordisk, who have already closed sales for the UK (Entertainment One) and Switzerland (Frenetic Films) before the festival even started.
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