Monday, 22 July 2013

Iceland's cultural lifeline from deep water

This is an extract  from my Daily Record column, which you can read in the paper each Monday 

 The Deep - Iceland's Oscar entry for best foreign language film.

From Scalloway to Kirkcudbright, anyone who has spent time in a fishing community will recognise the hard drinking, chain-smoking trawlermen in "The Deep", the first big Icelandic movie since the banking crash.

Set in a north island fishing port in 1984, the drama is the incredible true story how an unassuming fisherman survived a shipwreck by swimming for five hours in the ice cold Atlantic.

Fellow crewmen were killed in sea temperatures that should have seen him off in 15 minutes. Somehow he made it ashore and walked barefoot across a lavafield into his island fishing village

The tone is pitch perfect, from the traffic cones as ship's fenders to the ordinary, unpatronising way the characters are portrayed.

The message for an Icelandic audience is not hard to fathom.

The film makers reached back into living memory and dragged up a forgotten legend to inspire them again.

This simple, noble fishing nation snagged itself on the rocks of international finance. Their boat sank and the situation looked grave.

But against the odds a plucky everyman makes it to shore, and goes back to the boats, the only trade he knows.

As they said in Iceland after the crash, 'we can always go fishing'.

Nations are the stories that they tell themselves.

In Scotland commissioned scripts are generally about heroic characters overcoming drugstrewn, urban backgrounds. That is unless they are about downtrodden characters swallowed up by drugstrewn, criminal backgrounds.

For our film industry The Deep is a cultural look and learn.

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