I hunt translators

So how does one little country get to have so much talent for crime fiction, film, and music? (Banking, not so much . . .)

Sarah Weinman’s useful smatterings brought me to this review by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir of a delicious-sounding Icelandic television series, based on a novel that has not been translated into English.

I Hunt Men (Icelandic title: Mannaveidar), directed by Björn B. Björnsson, follows two detectives as they attempt to track down a serial killer who has a penchant for murdering goose hunters. The four-episode murder mystery series (170 min.) is based on the popular novel Daybreak by Icelandic crime-writer Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson and was adapted for the screen by Sveinbjörn I. Baldvinsson.

At the center of I Hunt Men is a staple to the TV and film crime genre: the classically mismatched police partners. Much to his chagrin, the straight-laced and by-the-book detective Hinrik (played by Gísli Örn Gardarsson), is paired up with Gunnar, a disheveled looking detective who speaks his mind and gets the job done.

The partner match-up, or rather mismatch, may be predictable, but Ólafur Darri Ólafsson gives a great performance as Gunnar and seems to play the part with ease. As a result, Gunnar comes across as genuine, unapologetic and very likable.

Gunnar’s insatiable appetite for junk-food snacks and his permanently untucked (and crumb-laden) shirt contrasts Hinrik’s tailored black coats, fitted sweaters, and his reserved, often overly dramatic, demeanor. . . .

In terms of the look of the series, among the most visually stunning moments of the episodes are the juxtapositions of the wide-angle and aerial shots of both nature and cityscapes. The aerial shots of the city’s apartment buildings lined up row after row reveal hidden courtyards only fully visible from the air.

Reykjavík is seen in a new light, even in the dark of night. The yellow glow of the city lights against the black night sky fits well with the tone of the episodes.

Shots taken from the air outside of the city showcase the winding black highway cutting its way through the vivid orange, brown and green moss-covered landscape that stretches out to the horizon. Images like these play like tourism advertisements for Iceland.
The great outdoors even finds its way into many of the interior scenes as well. The camera is cleverly set up to capture the view from the oversized windows of most of the apartments ensuring that a mountain or ocean-view is always visible in one way or another. . . .

Because the series first aired in March of 2008—before the collapse of the Icelandic banking industry—there are a few instances that hit on strikingly relevant topics in the aftermath of the recent economic freefall in Iceland. One such example appears in the character of the wealthy banker who exudes haughtiness and under questioning behaves as slippery as his slicked back hair.

Gunnar’s defense for his “unconventional” interviewing tactics ring true for many in Iceland these days; “Should I talk to him differently just because he lives in a tower and makes more in a month than we do in a year?” Today this line so perfectly hits the mark that it’s enough to induce a wince from an Icelandic viewer.

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