Dýrafjörður (2014)

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While I obviously love movies (look to the right just a bit…), I don’t post all that many reviews. Well, really, I think the only review I’ve ever done is Stoker, all my others thoughts on films are just that: reflections. Dýrafjörður offers a lot to reflect on, especially for this blog, and so I’m happy to be able to share a few words and then give a plug for my friend Philip Carrel’s wonderful piece.

And yes, I am using “friend” a bit optimistically since I only got to know Philip for about a month. After that, he took off; he told me he had to finish up his documentary in this Icelandic village and since then he hasn’t returned. You know that bucket list you’ve been making? Well, you might as well throw it out and just print Philip’s instagram feed; it’s a far prettier index of all those places you want to go. I could be wrong, but my impression of Philip has been that he isn’t traveling out of some enormous ambition to “see the world” but he and his wife are drawn by a sense of life as moving while listening, or listening while moving, a kind of Heraclitean earnestness that makes any pretty place as realistic as the next. Anyway that’s my read on Dýrafjörður, but I hope you keep reading a bit before you just go watch it (or maybe come back after??).

Dýrafjörður reminds me of Tree of Life, as soon as someone has started to tell a story you end up in a montage of nature shots. Unlike Tree of Life, I like it. There is so much Heidegger going on in this film that I could just post my paper on “The Origin of the Tree of Life,” but you’d probably enjoy watching that paper more than reading it so go watch Dýrafjörður (keep reading first!!). This village is portrayed with such harmony, such a rich sense of people bringing form and expression to their landscape and natural resources and living at the beneficent mercy of the giant, purple sky. There is so much beauty, but more than that there is so much context, such incredible detail and inspiration drawn from where each character sits, or works, or walks. This film comes alive on the boat “Eternity,” where a man does his work with a goal but not a plan and as he talks we are so immersed in the boat itself, its sides and corners and railings, that we might be sharing a point of view with this man. We are, in many ways, inside his imagination, and Dýrafjörður seems a place where artisans create their imaginations daily, always innovating and working with care (Heidegger points!!) but never trying to outstrip the beauty that has always already surrounded them, enveloped them.

There is so much gelassenheit, even to the point where a young musician describes her process of inspiration as “just,” just walking or just thinking but moreso “just” without a verb. There is a sense of openness that these artisans share, a failure to worry about where things are headed and a resounding affirmation of the simple, the beautiful, the gentle, and the fair. You really need to see this film because it gets life in a profound way, a way embedded in its images and music (but not so much its audio…).

I think Carrel has struck a unique chord here, following in the footsteps of Malick and more recently Lucid, Inc. and doing so with minimal equipment, an approach I don’t usually advise but he may have perfected it (so I can accept a few skews and jitters). In fact, like I recently remarked about Harmony Korine with Spring Breakers (what a comparison!), his style seems incredibly fun to work out, an inspiring sense of openness and adaptability that revitalizes the art of filmmaking, whereas too often it is overly technical. With each of his works, I am learning from Carrel as a filmmaker, but more than that as a human being with a stake in the modern world that can become overwhelmingly, again, technical. Heidegger, once more, saw this coming and prophesied that poetry and gelassenheit where the only ways forward. Well, Philip, Loralee, Scott, and whoever else is so far Stone Key Films, you have revealed Heidegger’s words in their truth once again, but in a refreshingly new way that is thoroughly enjoyable. Bravo and brava.

So buy it here (they would rather you rent it and then buy it but we all know that’s happening so): https://www.reelhouse.org/stonekeyfilms/dyrafjordur

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