If you aren’t intrigued by that title, you must have a heart colder than the Icelandic winter. And yeah, we know it’s cold — in fact, we know everything there is to know about Iceland since we just watched the movie “Jar City,” which was screened today in 142 Dwinelle.

“Jar City,” based on an Icelandic crime novel, follows two men: one, a grieving genetics worker who just lost his child to disease, and the other, a stoic Scandinavian detective trying to solve a grisly murder. The movie was screened because of its relevance to genetics (and thus the On the Same Page program).

But this isn’t sci fi — the genetics component springs from reality. Iceland is very ice-olated (forgive the horrible pun) and has been keeping detailed geneological records since the 1200′s, so their populace was viewed as ideal for genetic research. In 1998 they passed a law giving the rights of the entire population’s genetic information to a private company called Decode Genetics, in order to help create cures for diseases. Of course there are other potentially more sinister uses for that kind of information, but getting into that would spoil the ride.

And it is quite a ride. The movie is very … Icelandic. One favorite quote (subtitled, of course, so take that with a grain of salt) discusses the “typical Icelandic murder — messy and pointless.” The actors are all “Twilight”-vampire pale and very stoic. They don’t suffer sissies in Iceland. The silly cop sidekick is a vegetarian, and when he eyes the unidentified meat and asks for other options, the cook replies “We don’t serve any of your guacamole bullshit.”

The crime is interestingly dealt with, with good twists and turns. The violence is disturbing, but not nearly as disturbing as the sight of the protagonist spearing a sheep’s eyeball with his knife (fun fact: apparently you can get sheeps’ heads at drive thrus in Iceland).

The movie is also surprisingly funny, with a cheeky gallows humor all its own. The main detective, Erlendur, is a sharp, grizzled old man with great one-liners — think Icelandic Samuel L. Jackson in a sweater vest.

If that isn’t enough to make you watch it, we don’t know what to do with you (stream it instantly on Netflix). You can’t miss the Icelandic lovechild of “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Gattaca.” You just can’t.

Image source: Paul Miller under Creative Commons


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