Reframing Fridriksson and Trier

in 27th Reykjavik International Film Festival

by Nanna Frank Rasmussen

Since the Reykjavik International Film Festival 2009 failed to include new Icelandic feature films in their program, it was a pleasant surprise to find that a visit to Reykjavik nevertheless presented an opportunity to keep up with one of the latest artistic invention of the Godfather of Icelandic cinema, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson. From 3 September to 18 October the Reykjavik Art Museum in Hafnarhúsi displayed the unique exhibition Revisited Frames, dedicated to the collaboration between Fridriksson and Danish provocateur and Dogma 95 founder Lars von Trier, only this time on the canvas. The exhibition presented 16 huge oil paintings (2,80 times 3,20 meters), blown up frames from Fridriksson’s Children of Nature and von Trier’s Antichrist, The Element of Crime, Breaking the Waves and The Kingdom, showing the correlation, but also the difference, between paintings and cinematic images. The frames were chosen by Fridriksson, and the curator Ari Alexander Ergis Magnússon provided the exhibition with a mixed-media instellation accompanied by an alluring and compelling score by Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson. The Icelandic composer was an obviuos and yet brilliant choice for the job. His long time working relationship with Fridriksson started with the director’s debut feature White Wales in 1987, and Hilmar Örn continued to add musical brilliance to not just Fridriksson’s films but also, among others, to Jane Campion’s In the Cut and Sturla Gunnarsson’s Beowulf & Grendel starring Gerard Butler. Lately he has returned to Icelandic films and scored the first Icelandic horror movie Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre by Julius Kemp and Fridriksson’s Mamma Gógó.

The exhibition wished to call attention to how audiences approach different kinds of pictures, either still or moving. The paintings pointed out that every frame in a film can be in it self a piece of art, but also that the diegetic realism in films is merely framed fiction. It is not a new notion and funny enough while going through the exhibition one started missing the juxtaposition provided by montage. More interesting was the mixed-media installation, combining clips from a range of films by the two directors. Here the traditional filmic order was broken down and rebuilt creating other meanings and atmosphere than in the original films. This is where Eisenstein’s idea of montage and the “tertium quid” really came into their own. The whole became greater than the individual parts. And this is where the meeting with the visual talents of the two directors became truly interesting and intriguing, since they both visually and artistically “survived” the remodelling of their original frames. Certainly there is no doubt that Lars von Trier and Fridrik Thor Fridriksson are great filmmakers and that the fascination of their work lies not only in their approach to a narrative but is also very much due to their artistic visual sensibility. The two of them have worked together before; Fridriksson was associate producer on Dancer in the Dark (2000) and starred in von Trier’s The Boss of it All (2006). The art exhibition Revisited Frame showed us they can also collaborate when it comes to big canvases. But there is no doubt that they are at their best on the big screen.

Edited by Yael Shuv