Jar City aka Mýrin

8 / 10


Nothing seems to ever happen in Iceland, except perhaps the eccentric singing of Björk. It's a dark and desolate place, much I imagine like the Falkland Islands; very beautiful yet desolate landscape with winds that batter the architecture and give it the look of a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

A body of a man is discovered with his head stoved in by an ashtray. He's an old man named Holberg and the only clue to his death appears to be a photograph of the headstone of a 5 year old girl who died in the 1970's. Leading the investigation is Inspector Erlendur (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson) but he also has his hands tied with his drug-taking prostitute daughter who tries to scam money off her father as she is now also pregnant.

Meanwhile within the same small community, örn (Atli Rafn Sigurðsson) is grieving the death of his four year daughter to the genetic disease neurofibromatosis. örn becomes obsessed with this rare disease and spends all his time trying to research it, his wife leaving him in the meantime although he doesn't really seem to notice or care.

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Erlendur's investigations show that Holberg was part of a trio of bad lads during the 70's, one of which has been missing for years. Linked in to both this and the photograph is an old retired corrupt policeman.

Jar City or Mýrin examines the small and close knit Icelandic community, police corruption and secrets long buried.


The cinematography is both breathtaking and unforgivingly desolate at the same time. Despite the prolific use of outside locations, I've rarely felt more claustrophobic when watching a film.

The soundtrack is mainly choral by I'm led to believe was sung by the Reykjavik Police Choir. It at times sounds very Gregorian and at other times Organisation-era OMD, very dark but soothing - contrasting in the same way as the cinematography.

Soundtrack is in Icelandic with burnt in subtitles in English.

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Superb dark and funny film. It plays almost like a Nordic version of A Touch of Frost with lead actor Sigurðsson turned into a tired and worn-out middle-aged policeman just like David Jason is for the ITV series. The humour, whilst Icelandic, is very black and funny whilst also seeming very English.

The story line is very much your typical procedural murder mystery with a sideline in Icelandic culture with the link being a genetic disease. It was relatively obvious where it was going after a short while but for me it wasn't about solving the mystery but the journey, which included an unusual sideline of the main policeman character having to deal with a daughter who is not only pregnant to god knows who but a drug addict and prostitute - not your usual thing for this genre. Bizarrely though, for a plotline that is ultimately so bleak, the humour is abundant and I laughed out loud several times, mostly with the comedy sidekick Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, although that term feels almost derogatory when you consider his performance.

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The acting in the film is superb, a real ensemble piece with Sigurðsson and Haraldsson in particular shining as well as the psychotic Brian Glover lookalike Theódór Júlíusson. You kind of get a real sense of the closeness and hopelessness of such a small community, where even the lowlifes know the Inspector and taunt him about his daughter, whilst also taunting her about her father. You also get a glimpse of Icelandic culture with one of the more mundane but bizarre scenes being Erlendur buying a sheep's head for his tea and then eating it like you would chicken, after first gouging out and eating the eye with a pen knife (so glad I ate before that…).

Really good film and heartily recommended.

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