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My 2016: Atli Oskar Fjalarsson

Cinema Scandinavia: Sparrows became such a popular film. What can you tell us about that experience?

 Atli Oskar Fjalarsson: I believe the main element that made it magical was that we travelled to this tiny fishing village in the middle of nowhere. We just spent two months there shooting a film. We were away from our friends and family, so in a way, it became a family of our own. The crew and the cast became close and we worked together to make this film. It all came together in the end. It felt like such a magical experience being in the nothingness every day and it brought everything together.

CS: Do you find yourself to be like your character, Ari?

AOF: I think I can relate to him in a lot of ways, especially in terms of the loneliness. We all feel lonely sometimes so it’s easy to connect to him in that way. He seems to be the epitome of loneliness! I wouldn’t say I’m like him in any way, except for the fact I used to be a teenager myself and I used to have these insecurities like everybody did.

CS: You’ve appeared in multiple works by Rúnar Rúnarsson. Do you have a good working relationship?

AOF: I appeared in one of his short films when I was fourteen years old. That was a cool experience; I’d never worked on any short films or feature-length films or anything. That was my debut as an actor for the film. It was amazing being able to experience everything alongside Rúnar. He was like a fatherly figure in that process of how to prepare for the role. I was just fourteen and had no idea what I was doing! He helped be prepare for the role and the right mindset for the harder shoots. He’s a loving character and he takes you under his wing, as he did for Sparrows as well. Heled us, the actors, through this experience.

CS: As Ingvar plays your father, did you develop a strong relationship?

AOF: Definitely. We worked a lot on editing the script alongside Rúnar. There are many scenes where there’s a certain dialogue between the father and the son and sometimes the dad says something that the son doesn’t like and vice versa. We had to check ourselves and think about whether or not a sixteen-year-old would actually say that. We had to try and be realistic about how they communicate. We both started editing each other’s lines. I really liked being able to have an open discussion about what we could change and what we could make better.

CS: Sparrows has gone to become so popular. What do you think it is about Icelandic film that’s making it so popular around the world?

AOF: First and foremost it’s the humanity of the stories that we tell. We are very in tune with what makes us tick as human beings and we’re very truthful. We never heighten anything, whether that is dramatically or in action, that should be heightened. That coupled with the intense landscape and the landscape being this character of its own in most Icelandic films really draws people in, to begin with, and then the humanity makes them stick.

Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.