Heartstone is a very successful debut of a young director Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson: the awards at the Venice International Film Festival and the Netherlands Production Platform received while the film still was in development prove it. Before Heartstone, Guðmundsson created a reputation of a very talented short film director, with his short films having won over fifty international awards. The film with such regalia definitely cannot be the one you forget easily.
The topic of teenage adolescence in the cinema has gained its popularity a long time ago as this is something every person goes through, a unique experience that is too personal to share. And this is exactly what lies behind the movie: a personal story based on director’s experience of growing up in a remote fishing village.
As in any Scandinavian film, nature is an inalienable part of the story. But this story, surrounded by a cold sea, flat grounds and green mountains, is about human’s nature in the first place. Being a teenager, being a single mother trying to get your personal life back on track once again, being a younger brother of bullying sisters, being a homosexual and living with a homophobic father… Natural harshness and natural beauty are the yin and yang of this story. A story of a strong, beautiful bond between two boys is framed with aggression and violence from the very first moments. Talking about the opening scene, the most unpleasant thing is not the fact of killing the bullrouts, this is quite normal for a fishing village, but the act of meaningless aggression one of the boys shows towards the fish calling it ugly and jumping on it. This is really striking. Thor is exposed to constant humiliation thanks to his sisters. His inner aggression that can only find the way out in a form of offending other people, spitting and kicking the grass. At some point the only question you have is if there is any escape from this world of cruelty. But the interesting thing is that for the characters this is the world they are used to live in, the normal world – their world, just as it is.Heartstone, like a construction set, consists of many separate details: relationship between parents and children, homosexuality, life in a rural village and life in a closed society, first love, awakening sexuality, puberty, closed society, friendship, suicide… The film is about discovering your true self, a painful and harsh process that no one can escape. We are exposed to this all alone at an early age, with no support, unable to express what we are feeling and what we are going through. This experience never leaves without a trace; it defines our lives. ‘As a kid or teenager, I used to wish that I could show the grown-ups around me how our world really was’, says Guðmundsson, ‘and that’s what I want to do as a film-maker.’ The story in Heartstone is about awkward, obstinate teenagers becoming grown-ups – still awkward and obstinate but a little bit wiser, stronger and better.