Hjartasteinn: Beyond the Gray Sky

Whenever someone makes a list of the best coming of age movies ever made, certain movies are must-included. The Last Picture Show depicts the role of the town and its atmosphere on the juvenescence. Stand By Me might be (sure is) the best example of the significance of brotherhood and support against bullying in early age. The Graduate, on the other hand, handles the idea of manhood that was already determined by the society.
First feature of Icelandic director Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson, Hjartasteinn (meaning ‘heart stone’) deals with the brutal stage of growing up with a powerful bond of Þór and Kristján (played with flying colors by first time actors Baldur Einarsson and Blær Hinriksson) and uncovering infinite secrets of sexuality and sexual orientations by carefully bundling these two much discussed areas together before the visually stunning nature of Seyðisfjörður captured by rising cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen, in a remote fishing village in Iceland through a unique but potentially referential way of storytelling with the characteristic elements used in coming of age movies.

While there has been a silent agreement between these two kids on exploring unspoken nature of sexuality in such little town where ‘the birds and the bees talk’ is avoided, let alone ‘the bees and the bees.’ The more clearly Kristján comes to terms with his sexual desires, the grimmer it gets the confrontation of defining his bond with Þór. Their friendship looks a lot like Chris and Gordie from Stand By Me in terms of backing up for each other against bullying and understanding one another in high esteem at such delicate moments. During puberty, some kids might be brutal in reacting to the ones that look or act differently from the others. Support and love are the substance of what the kids who act unconventionally, and feel apprehensive need.

There may not been a better metaphoric display of womb in movies since Benjamin jumps into the pool in The Graduate. One of the most peaceful moments we see of him is that moment when he stays in that safety zone for a considerable length of time. Right after stepping into the dangerous roads of puberty, approximately during in the middle of the movie, Kristján plunges into the lake and frees himself by screaming inside the lake after getting asphyxiated beneath the surface because of the realisation of his sexual orientation that hurts so much that he can not bear the pain as hard as he tries to refrain from it. When he wakes up his friends to join him to the lake, just like Benjamin’s father’s attempts to stereotyping him into the traditional understanding of manhood in The Graduate, Kristján’s father arrives at the area and put and end to his son’s fun by hitting him for ‘stealing horses’ which is a reference to having fun and spending a night with the loved ones. Horse in movies is also a metaphor for freedom and grace. After that, Kristján goes back to the real world he suffers in.
The village, and the weather more precisely nature itself plays quite an important role as the dynamics between the characters just like the dying town in The Last Picture Show. The story takes place in the summer, and the winter slowly brings the clarity in circumstances of unfolded awareness. Nature mirrors for the tangled string of emotions circulating in their minds. Suicide has been the biggest cause of death in Iceland among young men. Guðmundsson had given the first signs of his sympathy on touching upon this very issue before with his short movie called Whale Valley. Besides, in Iceland, there’s a campaign called Útmeða (meaning ‘out with it’) that aims at preventing future incidents from happening. With the helpline and the internet chatline, the campaign provide young people the help they have been seeking on the rocky road of finding hope.

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