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Electronic press kit

Atlantis, Iceland

The image of happiness. The solitude of music. The misery of politics.

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A man explores a bitterly cold, windswept and mysterious land at the top of the world to track down the 50-year-old film scene known as the image of happiness. The journey pushes his subconscious mind to the limit. His hubris-like pursuit of the unknown children from a cult French filmmaker’s pièce de résistance, Sans Soleil, leads him on a pilgrimage of mixed messages. His discovery of an ancient empire is preceded by his own psychological deterioration.

 

A ustralian baby boomers Sandy and Mike head off to Iceland for a bucket list of music, politics and filmmaking in a landscape akin to the glories of Valhalla. Washing down petrified shark with local beer and Brennivín, they meet with local bands – Tófa (Art Punk), Pink Street Boys (garage/punk), Kælen Mikla (post punk/minimal wave), Sólstafir (non-heavy metal, heavy metal), Singapore Sling (rock‘n’roll/shoegaze), Misþyrming (hard core black metal) and Dream Wife (pop/punk), who are all playing at the annual Iceland Airwaves music festival.

 

They search for a young punk band to make a music film clip, they visit a women’s underground toilet where Johnny Rotten opens a punk museum, and they meet a true believer who connects with elves, dwarves and huldufólk (the hidden people).

 

A fter disappointing election results both in Iceland and in the United States, Sandy becomes more fixated on the search for the children (who, if still living, would likely be his age) from the image of happiness. He interviews politicians, filmmakers and journalists about the children. His friend Mike, who really came to listen to music and paint, tires of Sandy’s obsession and leaves for warmer climes. Even Sandy’s new Icelandic friends wonder about his out of control obsession. Feeling abandoned, Sandy heads for the Icelandic wilderness relentlessly chasing the answer he believes he will find.

 

When documentary and experimental fiction meet in the glorious and hostile Icelandic landscape, the hipster city of Reykjavik demonstrates a complex political system ready to burst at the generational seams. The city lets loose a horde of Nordic killer bands and, beyond the sophisticated city, an ancient landscape reveals the solitude and isolation that makes Iceland mystical and dangerous, physical and spiritual.

Copyright: LNBF Pty Ltd 2017.

Photo gallery

Director's statement

A career and a quarter interrupted my interest in the image of three children in Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil.

 

In the mid-1980s, I saw the 16mm film in a film studies class at the then South Australian College of Advanced Education. The lecturer said something like “this is what film is all about”. I was certain the film was mostly about Iceland. The image of those three children, described as the “image of happiness”, stayed with me. I didn’t see the film again for some twenty years when it was finally released on DVD. I can’t say if it was just that image, but it felt like I’d always had this thing about Iceland.

Since the Global Financial Crisis and that volcano (Eyjafjallajökull), the world seemed to join me in my fascination with Iceland. My wife and I spent a week there at the end of an Arctic adventure. It whetted my appetite. I wanted to go back. Next time for a music festival.

 

In 2014 I started preparing for retirement. I was going to focus on the three things I loved: film, music and politics. A film lecturer friend, Cole Larsen, asked me to help him make a punk music video. I loved punk. He’d had quite a bit of experience in the film industry and had directed a sci-fi feature (Double Happiness Uranium). Should be fun, I thought.

 

A drive around South Australia’s Hindmarsh Island the following year led to a suggestion to Larsen. “Hey, why don’t we go to Iceland for the Airwaves Music Festival? Maybe even make a couple of Icelandic punk music videos.”  Of course, secretly, I was wondering if I could also look for the three children, as they were likely my age. I started researching and discovered no-one knew anything about them. Not even on a Facebook page dedicated to Chris Marker.

 

A polymath friend decided to come. Rick Davies is a keen photographer and traveller, and had similar music and political tastes. Plus he was an engineer and a lawyer. Living Not Beige Films was born when Laresen, Davies and I  joined forces. 

 

Then Robert Habel decided to join us from a painting trip to Spain and Portugal. Equally interested in politics, he liked punk, and metal as well. He’d worked around film quite a bit, quite a lot of it with Cole. It was starting to look like a boy’s own adventure (well, one for middle-aged men anyway).

Our original plan was to make a series of music videos from the Airwaves off-venue program (and maybe look for three middle-aged Icelanders who had once been in a film – two girls and a boy, I thought).

 

We hatched a plan to maybe interview some of the Icelandic punk band members and show it to some of the bands we knew back home. We hadn’t had much luck convincing anyone else in Adelaide let us film them. This could encourage them to want our help. Maybe.

 

In April, as we were preparing, the government fell and an early election was expected in the Autumn. Autumn? Just before the music festival in November. We were well in to our preparations in August when the election was announced. October 29. The day after we were due to arrive. I decided to leave a week earlier than planned. We didn’t time it this way, but the US Election was two days after the end of music festival. Should we zip across to Washington or New York? I was unhealthily obsessed with US politics.

 

And then we did the improbable – we shot a film. In three weeks. In Iceland. I’d never written a treatment or directed a film, Rick had never held a movie camera, luckily Cole knew about film stuff and Rob could cook and was great at chasing bands to whom we could speak. Would we discover what it was that so interested me (and a few other million people) about Iceland: its music, its politics, and it’s amazing scenery, or would that image from 50-year old film haunt my sanity? I knew there was something about Iceland. I just had to find out what.

A thank you note to Iceland

Peter Hanlon – via Facebook, November 17, 2016

Thank you Iceland! 

The rest of the crew of #AtlantisIceland have already departed and I'm the last one to leave (in an hour). #LivingNotBeigeFilms are immensely privileged to have spent several weeks learning more  about Iceland and it's wonderful people. We have been a part of, and witnessed, some amazing events: from Iceland Airwaves to the Icelandic election (not to mention the bizarre US election). As you do in Iceland, we have seen some amazing scenery (there truly is "something about Iceland"). However, the highlight has certainly been meeting the wonderful people we have met from Day One on the 24th of October. From musicians, to artists, politicians, business people, journalists and many, many more. While it would take a long Facebook post to thank everyone, I must highlight our "Sherpa" Álfheiður Marta Kjartansdóttir. None of this would have been possible without her organisational ability, her insight and her resilience. Thanks Alf! 

The best way we can thank everyone is to produce the best film possible.

So look out for Atlantis, Iceland. Coming soon!

Takk Fyrir!

Peter Hanlon

Closing credits