A couple of nights ago we went to the premiere of a new Icelandic film about the collapse called Maybe I Should Have.
The title is a throwback to a remark that then-PM Geir H. Haarde made on the programme Hard Talk last year. The host asked why he had not called Gordon Brown when Brown invoked anti-terrorist legislation to freeze Icelandic assets during the collapse, to which Geir gave the lame response: “Well, maybe I should have”.
[Trivia alert: The title of the film God Bless Iceland is also taken straight from Geir Haarde’s mouth – it’s how he finished his speech on October 6, 2008 when he basically told us we were all f*cked. Who knew his words would be immortalized in this way – not once, but twice!?]
The film Maybe I Should Have starts with director Gunnar Sigurðsson, who casts himself, Michael Moore-style, at the centre of the action, going to return a car he can no longer afford. The car was bought on a currency basket loan and the sums he presents in the film are just so ludicrous that you don’t know whether to laugh or cry – something like ISK 2.2 million at the outset, and after paying for a full year a total of over ISK 700,000 he is told that he now owes the bank something like ISK 4.7 million.
Anyway, so Gunnar is on the fast track to bankruptcy, even though he has, by his own account lived pretty sparsely. Like everyone else in Iceland he’s pretty damn confused about what’s gone down, so he goes out and talks to some people. One guy has some pretty sound advice: “If you want to know what really went down, you have to follow the money.”
So that’s what he does. He travels to the UK, Gurnsey [and speaks to depositors there who lost everything and who will not be reimbursed – those are the most harrowing parts of the film], Luxembourg, Tortola, New York. He talks to people, including Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson who comes across as a total imbecile … seriously, it is hard to imagine that this man once enjoyed a modicum of respect in this country. There is one totally surreal scene where he gets all worked up and waves his hands around a lot and tells Gunnar that sometimes money just disappears, it just vanishes, “it goes to money heaven!”. – OH! OH OH OH!! So THAT’S where the money is! IT WAS COLLECTED THROUGH ICESAVE AND SENT STRAIGHT TO MONEY HEAVEN!! SO WE DON’T NEED TO FEEL BAD!
Phew, glad you cleared that up for us there, Bjöggi boy.
[Incidentally, at one point Bjöggi boy gets more than a little agitated by a question asked by Gunnar, abruptly tears off his microphone and announces that the interview is over. Aw! Just when he could have entertained us for hours with inane remarks. What a spoilsport!]
There are many stellar moments in the film … and one of its main strengths is how, despite the low budget, the producers are able to find innovative and clever ways to make their points, sometimes hilariously [clips from old Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy films, etc. — picture a scene where a guy gets struck in the head repeatedly by lightning and draw your own parallels]. However, in my opinion the biggest strength of the film is the black humour and the complete absence of self-pity and victimization … this is just a guy trying to cope with an utterly bizarre set of circumstances and who despite everything manages to see their absurdity.
The film isn’t by any means perfect – personally I thought the long closing sequence was totally out of place, and it was the first time I went into major *cringe* mode. It would have been fine in a different context — while watching I found myself wishing they’d just left that part out. I’ll say no more.
There were a few other hiccups — at times the information comes at you fast and furious, and you have to work overtime just to process everything. It was OK for most people in the audience because most had been marinating in these issues for a year and a half — but foreigners or anyone not as familiar with the events might have trouble keeping up.
That said, it’s definitely worth seeing, and the best film I have seen so far about the collapse. Now – here is the part where I would like to tell all you non-Icelandic speakers where you can get a hold of it or see it — but alas, I have not heard back from the producers on that one [I’ve sent them an email]. I know they’re hoping to show it at festivals, etc. so it will likely be a little while before it’s available on DVD — but if you do come across it at a theatre near you, check it out.
Maybe I Should Have goes into regular distribution in Iceland on February 5.