Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: Jar City

I caught a preview of Jar City yesterday, an Icelandic thriller based on Arnaldur Indridason’s novel of the same name. I haven’t read the novel, so I can’t judge how closely or otherwise the filmmakers based their story on the source material, but I’d be very surprised if Indridason’s fans were disappointed. I loved it.
  It’s a gritty, bleak story set against a barren and blasted backdrop, in which the investigation of a murder unravels a complex web of corruption, blackmail and unsolved killings. It’s a multi-layered piece, in which themes are gently teased out as a number of stories run parallel to one another, most of them centring on the character of Detective Erlendur, played by a laconic Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson. Father-daughter relationships play a prominent part, and provide the obvious emotional engagement for the audience, but there’s quite a lot happening here that is more subtly achieved. Not least is the use of natural light – or the artifice that persuades us that natural light is used – to give the impression the entire country is smothered with gloomy foreboding.
  Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson’s camerawork is superb, and Iceland – or the parts of it used here – looks achingly beautiful. The cast is uniformly good, with Sigurðsson outstanding, and the director, Baltasar Kormákur, maintains a pleasingly downbeat tone right up the very end, when things unfortunately turn disappointingly formulaic. Nevertheless, this is for the most part a terrific crime thriller, and a wonderful advertisement for Icelandic cinema.


Corey Wilde said...

I thought the book was excellent, but have not had the opportunity to see the film. And I thought Arnaldur's next book, Silence of the Grave, was even better. The translation of the dialogue occasionally seems rough, esp in Jar City, but that's only an impression as I don't speak Icelandic.

maxine said...

Yes, the book is excellent. It is sometimes called "Tainted Blood" so watch out. Although I liked the book, the solution relied on an impossibility (which I won't reveal here in case you decide to read it).
Four of his books have been translated now, with a fifth due soon. I think each one is better than the last.
One of these books was the last translated book to win the main Dagger prize. After that they changed the rules so that only books written in English could win. I suppose they were worried he'd win every year!

Declan Burke said...

Corey - The movie I saw was sub-titled in English, but the dialogue didn't put me off at all; in fact, I thought it was quite well done. Sub-titling is an art in itself ...

Maxine - The big reveal at the end was a little improbable, I have to say, but what I liked best about the movie was the snapshot of Iceland it provided. I'll definitely be going after some of Indridason's novels after seeing it.

Cheers, Dec