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Maybe I Should Have, aka Follow the Money

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.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • sylvia hikins January 23, 2010, 1:07 am

    Everytime I read something like this I feel mad to the point of tears of rage, and sad to the point of tears.
    I hope this film makes it to the one independent cinema in Liverpool.
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • Lissa January 23, 2010, 1:10 am

    Money heaven?

    Every time I think I’ve heard it all, someone reaches new heights of inanity.

  • kevin o'connor,waterford ,ireland January 23, 2010, 3:10 am

    Tracked down God bless Iceland (W.Bush) on the the Bay just have to figure how to sync the subtitles into the player vast technical problem. Meanwhile keep the faith sometimes its hard being an Icelander, Canada getting better by the day – Quick cheap flight to Ottawa, down the 401 to Toronto and its all over ha ha.

  • C O'Reilly January 23, 2010, 9:23 am

    I’d say that I’m not the only person in Ireland who would love to see this film, so I hope that a version with subtitles is released. But the sad part is that it seems to show, again, that no-one knows where the money has gone.

  • James January 23, 2010, 9:57 am

    I got “God Bless Iceland” on DVD last year and, from this review, “Maybe I Should Have” seems worth getting as well when a subtitled version is eventually released.

    I’ve never understood where the Icesave money actually went, so like the idea of money heaven. All those British bank notes may have disappeared from the physical world, but at least their immortal souls live on. The question is: will their time in heaven be eternal or will they undergo reincarnation. I suspect the upcoming referendum may decide that…

  • Joerg January 23, 2010, 10:11 am

    I’m looking forward to watching this film some day. Who would have thought of Geir Haarde’s late career as profuse provider of film titles.

    For the sake of variety, I would suggest a film entitled “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” to come out soon – either about the hubris of pre-crash Icelandic politicians or about the inability to hold anybody accountable for this mess and track down the stolen money.

  • kevin o'connor,waterford ,ireland January 23, 2010, 12:08 pm

    @sylvia Probably your best chance of getting to see it is if some nice icelander puts it up on the bay.

  • sylvia hikins January 23, 2010, 1:30 pm

    Thanks Kevin. Actually, in Liverpool there is a strong Scandinavian community who have a centre and often show Icelandic films. But I hope your suggestion gets taken up.
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • Nigel Goddard January 23, 2010, 3:44 pm

    It’s pretty simple to explain, in the round, where all that money went, although the details are no doubt fiendish (as Eva Joly et al know). Here’s how it worked:

    Bank takes in deposit, then lends it out to someone/somecorp (sometimes its own directors, friends, paid-for pols, etc), who spends it on things (stuff, investments, etc). Then that person/corp can’t pay it back. So bank gets to seize assets. What are the assets? Well, they are mostly things like a betting slip that says if X financial event happens then you will get paid Y (i.e., the financial “products” the financial whizkids dreamed up, e.g., CDS). Turns out that betting slip is now worth just a fraction of what was paid for it by the person/corp who borrowed the money from the bank. So the bank can’t get much of its money back by selling the asset. Essentially, the money disappeared into the vast pay/profits of the finance industry which sold the betting slip. Unless the bank can prove fraud or suchlike by the seller of the betting slip, the bank (and its investors/depositors) has lost big time.

  • Pauline McCarthy January 23, 2010, 4:03 pm

    Kevin, forgive my ignorance, what is this “bay” you are referring to?
    I clicked your link and got Tammy Wynette singing “Stand by your Man!”
    I am lost on innuendo and sarcasm. What am I missing?

    Sorry for being such a numtyheid, please explain to this fellow Celt, who is not so technologically savvy.

    LoVe Pauline

  • Goupil January 23, 2010, 4:05 pm

    Thank you very much for your blog
    May I suggest this link to an analysis of the punishment inflicted to those who disgress from the narrow path of liberal free exchange economic dictat.

  • Goupil January 23, 2010, 4:10 pm

    Sorry I meant: to those who abide to the economic doxa

  • kevin o'connor waterford Ireland January 23, 2010, 9:49 pm

    @pauline its a swedish bay,google piratebay and bitttorrent programs such as microtorrent nudge,wink :), The link to Tammy was a play on Sometimes its hard being an Icelander to Alda. Maybe one day she will have blog entry entitled “This Place is too much I give up” ha ha.

  • alda January 23, 2010, 11:01 pm

    Don’t tempt me, Kevin! 😉

    As for Canada — been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

  • Andrew January 24, 2010, 10:57 am

    These are the sort of films that should get awards! The human angle that is presented is what really makes low-budget films work. Here’s an article on the human angle:


    “Dr Geir Gunnlaugsson, Iceland’s director of public health, has no doubt who was worst affected by the economic crisis that gripped the country 15 months ago – children.”

    “His worries are echoed by others. “It’s mostly about their psychological welfare. The children have also asking: What is going on? What do we mean by the ‘crisis’? What is going to happen?” said Professor Halldor Guðmundsson from the University of Iceland.”

    “”If no one goes to jail for what happened in this country then you will see it going up in flames,” said its manager, Arnor Bohic.”

  • alda January 24, 2010, 11:15 am

    Andrew – that’s interesting, because just a few weeks ago there was another study conducted here that showed that Icelandic children are actually feeling better now than they did in 2007. They felt their parents paid more attention to them and had more time to spend. Conflicting information, in other words.

  • alda January 24, 2010, 11:17 am

    Oh! I see now that article is by Ben — I met him for coffee last week. In fact he asked me that question — and I told him about the study. He was just about to go and meet with the Surgeon General after our meeting, so clearly he got this info straight from the horse’s mouth.