Jar City (Mýrin) (Director: Baltasar Kormákur): I previewed this film a few weeks back and thought that it looked like a stylish thriller which had the added benefit of being set in Iceland, and that’s essentially what it is. The natural beauty of the Icelandic setting is played down, however, with Kormákur pointing his camera at the bleaker and less spectacular parts of the countryside, which helps to keep the focus on the characters. Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, as police inspector Erlendur, gives a particularly intense performance as a man trying to solve a murder that has its roots in the past. Issues of privacy arise when it turns out that someone has been using the country’s unique genetic database to search for a common thread among several victims. Iceland’s small size makes it a unique place for this sort of genetic research, not to mention the fact that violent crime is relatively rare and word travels fast when it does occur. Despite these unique touches, the film is too much like an episode of Cold Case, CSI, or other television fare to have lasting appeal.
As well, the timeline of events becomes a bit confusing in places, and the presence of three father-daughter pairings fails to resonate as intended. I suspect that these flaws are not present in the source novel, Tainted Blood, by Arnaldur Indriðason, which has now been republished under the title Jar City. As with most adaptations, it’s likely that a lot has been left out, and in the case of this film, what’s missing feels important.
The musical score (by Icelandic pop star Mugison, who also scored Kormákur’s last film, A Little Trip To Heaven) is made up entirely of choral pieces sung by the Icelandic Police Choir, and although the director claims to have been aiming for “ghostly” music, at times and places in the film it feels heavy-handed.
Overall, I found the film enjoyable but ultimately forgettable.
Here is the Q&A with director Baltasar Kormákur from after the screening: