The Swan (Svanurinn)
When a young girl, Sól (Grima Valsdóttir), is sent to the countryside to work on her aunt and uncle’s farm over the summer after she gets caught shoplifting, she soon finds herself embroiled in a drama too complex for her to fully understand. Spending her time in the mountains with the wildlife, Sól begins to mature and discover what kind of person she is. Based on the novel by Guðbergur Bergsson, Ása Helga Hjörleifsdóttir’s first feature film is a beautifully elegant coming-of-age story that takes full advantage of the stunning Icelandic countryside.
The Swan is simply a visually breathtaking piece of cinema which showcases the picturesque Icelandic mountains; these countless sprawling vistas entice you in, immersing you within the scenery as if you are there as an observing voyeur. In turn, this sensation of being there helps to amplify the complex emotions young Sól finds herself going through, as we are unable to help her understand or offer any support. Constructed with a steady editing pace alongside its inherent, serene beauty, the picture has a blissful, meditative quality to it, insofar as the cinematography alone is reason enough to take a look.
In addition to the technical filmmaking, Valsdóttir’s performance is equally incredible. It’s rare that a young actor is able to show so much maturity and emotional complexity; in fact, she outshines her co-stars, who are themselves far from giving terrible performances. Whilst the film’s drama revolves around a relationship between a farm worker (Thor Kristjanson) and Sól’s older cousin (Þuríður Blær Jóhannsdóttir), this only serves as the catalyst for the protagonist to begin her metamorphosis. The crux of The Swan is Sól’s emotional development, and Valsdóttir carries this with ease.
However, in spite of the exceptional camerawork and performances, the events which are depicted lack any real sense of depth within the grand scheme of the narrative. Moments that have a massive impact on young Sól are ultimately inconsequential – passing through without ever being mentioned again – and it’s puzzling why they were given so much importance in the first place.
The Swan gives neither concrete answers nor an assured happy ending. What it does present is a visually striking piece of cinema that shows complex issues through the eyes of a child.
The Swan (Svanurinn) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Glasgow Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Glasgow Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for The Swan (Svanurinn) here: