Indridason’s Jar City on screen

I've just finished Arctic Chill, the fifth novel by Arnaldur Indridason, CWA Gold Dagger winner and crime-fiction writer extraodinaire. My review of this fantastic book is to come, but to those who are unfamiliar with this author, the film of the first novel in the series, Jar City * (also known as Tainted Blood), is now finally out in England. Hooray: I'd read about this film a year or so ago when it was released in Iceland, then more recently on its Irish premiere, so I eagerly await its sojourn at my local Odeon. (At the moment my only option is Covent Garden.) In some ways, Jar City is not the best introduction to this fantastic series, because the solution to the crime rests on a scientific impossibility. Even so, the rest of the book is pretty ace.  From the Times review:

"….Detective Erlendur (a tremendous, glowering turn from Ingvar E. Sigurðsson) has to contend with the local criminal element flaunting their knowledge of his own unravelling family life – his daughter is a pregnant, heroin-addicted former prostitute.

The story starts with the discovery of the body of an elderly man in a malodorous basement. Meanwhile, Örn (Atli Rafn Sigurðsson), mourns the four-year-old daughter he lost to a rare congenital disease with a fierceness that borders on obsession. These seemingly disparate story lines gradually weave together with a slow, deliberate precision – although so entirely unrelated are the two strands that it’s obvious that Örn must have some link to the dead man.

It’s a terrific piece of direction from Kormákur. Everything, from the look of the film (a frosted half-light that lends a chilly beauty to the bleak, often rather sordid, locations) to the brilliantly unsettling use of food as a recurring motif (the image of Erlendur prising the eyeball out of his sheep’s head supper is one that will stay with me far longer than I would like it to) is judged perfectly….."

* I am prepared to be corrected, but I believe that Arnaldur Indridason is relatively unusual among Scandinavian authors in that his series novels have been translated into English in order, starting with the first.

7 thoughts on “Indridason’s Jar City on screen

  1. Thanks for reminding me of this treat to come Maxine as it is on in my local Picture House in less than two weeks.

  2. I’m waiting with bated (baited?) breath, Norm, as I’d rather see it in Kingston upon Thames than Covent Garden – but if I have to venture that far, I will for this!
    “Tell No One”, the French film based on the novel by Harlan Coben was probably the last crime-fic film worth a look. It’s been out in Europe (incl UK) for a while but was only released in the USA while I was there in August.

  3. Thanks, Karen. This explains your ordering system on Euro Crime! I saw that it started at 3, but from the author’s website I couldn’t see an indication of two previous novels (but I only looked at the English language version). I wonder why the first two books haven’t been tranlsated?

  4. I just saw the film in Edinburgh – it was my birthday treat, actually. About as unscenic a version of Iceland as possible, but really quirky, extremely well acted, and at times both witty and chilling. Quite a few set pieces that don’t turn out as you’d expect, which is a nice change.
    The science doesn’t seem too implausible on screen, since they empahsise the inter-relatedness of Iceland rather than specific inheritance issues, although I had the odd thought about recessive genes flying about…then again, I’m a humanist not a scientist, so the flaw might be more obvious.
    Anyway, well worth a look if it’s in your area. Though my sister can’t understand why I’d spend my birthday watching gloomy Icelandic crime!

  5. Thanks, Lauren, will certainly catch this movie. I don’t like giving away plots but as we are in the comments – the solution in the book rests on someone being able to solve a double-blind code. That’s impossible.

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