The BBC arts critic Will Gompertz recently dismissed the new Eurovision movie as picture built on “lazy clichés and tired stereotypes.” In his mind Iceland and its 360,000 citizens don’t get the best treatment in the comedy, which sees Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams deploying their best Icelandic accents and obsessing over mystical elves.

“The depiction of Icelanders and their culture as an unsophisticated bunch of beer-drinking, whale-watching, knitted jumper-wearing innocents is tiresome and ignorant,” he said. “Iceland has a vibrant artistic community, which has produced some brilliant writers, musicians, and fine artists. They didn’t come from nowhere, they emerged from a rich seam of intellectuals that make the country such a magnet for artists of all kinds the world over.”

His criticism comes from a sincere place and flows from his respect for Iceland’s many talents. (Shout out to Olafur Eliasson, Björk, Ragnar Kjartansson and Selma Björnsdóttir, among others). It mirrors the concerns many Eurovision fans had ahead of the release — that Iceland might be end up as the butt of a bad joke. But scrolling through those tweets, and reading through various reviews that make similar points, there’s one rather glaring consistency: The people offended aren’t from Iceland!

So, as ever, we decided to sit down for a Eurovision kiki with our Icelandic bloggers Kristin Kristjansdottir and Steinunn Björk Bragadóttir. They’ve been keeping y’all up-to-date on the latest news out of the Nordic island nation for years, so we just had to ask for some freshly brewed North Atlantic tea.

Eurovision movie: What do people in Iceland think of the Netflix film?

Hey you two gorgeous queens of Reykjavík! How is the movie going down in Iceland?

Kristin: Well, it’s Number 1 on Netflix in Iceland as expected. And it is safe to say that this movie — plus Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams and Dan Stevens — all hit my Spoerg Note several times! Loved it.

Ahead of Eurovision, a lot of fans were worried about the portrayal of Iceland. Has that been an issue in Iceland now that it’s out? 

Kristin: The general Eurovision fan seems to find it hilarious and to be honest, the only people complaining about the portrayal of Iceland are not even Icelandic.

Steinunn: Yeah, I loved the movie and from what I’ve heard and read the majority in Iceland do seem to like it too. I think the stereotype of the wool-sweater wearing redneck from an Icelandic hicktown is extremely funny and the guy that yells “play Ja Ja Ding Dong” is spot-on. There is always at least one of this type in every party and at every bar here in Iceland!

I agree with Kristin that the biggest complaints are coming from non-Icelanders, but we just have to accept the fact that Icelanders are in general very much country and maybe not that cool. Plus I think that countries like USA and Russia come way out worse than us!

Yes, henny! Pass me a Starbucks. Now even our own Deban Aderemi took issue with the accents in the film, suggesting they might belittle real-life Icelanders. What’s your take on it?

Kristin: The best part is how Ferrell and McAdams manage to absolutely NAIL the “Icelander speaking English” accent! They sound exactly the same as your everyday Icelander who speaks English but not very often or particularly well.

Steinunn: I actually find them sounding like a mix an Icelander and a Swede, especially Pierce Brosnan — actually he just sounds Swedish. At times Pierce Brosnan trying to speak Icelandic sounds like he’s been extremely constipated for at least 10 years, but it’s funny as hell and in his defence Icelandic is maybe not the easiest language regarding pronunciation for non-native speakers.

The scenes in Iceland are lush. At times it seems like a beautiful postcard from Húsavík. I am living for those whales that leap from the water in unison.

Steinunn: If you’d come to Húsavík, you wouldn’t be disappointed. It pretty much looks the same as in the movie. About the whales….I’m not sure that you would be 100% satisfied. The director of the local council of Húsavík — sort of like a mayor — LOVES the movie and thinks it is a masterpiece.

Kristin: We should add that the whales were paid generously for their synchronized swimming [laughs].

In the movie a lot of locals were sort of anti-Fire Saga. But then they all come together in the pub when Iceland makes it to the final. Is this true to life?

Steinunn: I think they nailed the unity between Icelanders when we go abroad or do anything that gets attention outside of Iceland. People might really dislike one another but as soon as someone gets attention outside of the country people become super proud. Like when the cop says in the bar, “They might be idiots, but they are our idiots!” Spot on. This unity, however, does not apply if someone does something really offensive or embarrassing — then we disown them for some time and then just conveniently forget it ever happened.

Kristin: I experienced this ESC-related unity in Copenhagen in 2014! Everybody hugging each other, being like: “Heyyyyy yoooouuuu!!!” And then when Iceland’s act Pollapönk was added to the mix, some guy at Euroclub asked me if we knew them. Nope, just Icelanders abroad, or better yet, Icelanders in DENMARK.

The movie features a ton of Icelanders. Were any of them recognisable to you?

Kristin: All of them are recognisable…you do realize that this island has around 50 inhabitants?

I was pleasantly surprised that the song “Húsavík” made me feel things. Does the use of Icelandic work for you?

Steinunn: The song “Húsavík” is actually a beautiful song and the Icelandic part is ok — even though I didn’t understand everything she was trying to sing at first! After taking a look at the lyrics I can see that they are not 100% grammatically correct, but a way better effort than the so-called Icelandic in Denmark’s “Higher Ground” from 2018. My personal favourite is “Ja ja Ding Dong”. That is a schlager-gem and pretty much embodies the vibe of Icelandic schlager-pop music. We call it dægurtónlist. All in all I’m happy with the movie.

Kristin: My favorite song would have to be “Lion of Love”. It’s so hilariously kitsch and very much “Eastern Europe in the early 00’s”! But “Húsavík” and “Ja Ja Ding Dong” are a very close second.

Thank you Kristin and Steinunn! Hope to see y’all slaying the press room at Söngvakeppnin in 2021!

Are any of you reading from Iceland? What do YOU think of the movie? Did you recognise any personas from your everyday life? Shout it out down below!

Read more about the Netflix Eurovision Movie

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David T
David T
2 days ago

I saw the movie and loved it.

Sorry, but I think Will Gompertz is an idiot. That’s not based on one review but a whole host of them.

Brad Imsdahl
Brad Imsdahl
4 days ago

The movie does a great job of promoting the beauty of Iceland. Using a famous American actor to play the lead role is designed to get Americans interested in watching the movie. If you had unknown Icelanders play the lead role, the movie would be unknown to Americans. So the result is, the movie has a positive appeal to American tourism to Iceland, which I assume most Icelanders are in favor of. We Americans are smart enough to understand it is a comedy that most likely butchered the Icelandic language.

Veta
Veta
5 days ago

“the only people complaining about the portrayal of Iceland are not even Icelandic.” That’s not true. Ever since August of 2019, when the main characters’ names were just announced, there already were comments coming from Icelanders complaining about the characters’ names being nonexistent. Some of them as close as right on this site, others on Wiwibloggs’ Instagram page. Of course, the filmmakers didn’t bother to change anything. Interesting that in this interview the girls weren’t asked anything about the characters’ names. Yet, leting alone non-Icelandic first names and wrong spelling, but furthermore, I was shocked when in the middle of… Read more »

Demi Lovato's Arm
Demi Lovato's Arm
6 days ago

The movie feels like an indie movie with a Will Ferrell or a general (sometimes tongue-in-cheek) American humor. Nonetheless, it is a moderate, feel-good movie that can be watched well for everyone even if you’re not a Eurovision fan at all. Also, if this was set in my country, there is no reason for me to be offended about it at all.

Last edited 6 days ago by Demi Lovato's Arm
Xyz
Xyz
6 days ago

It’s a trashy wannabe comedy, the rviews are amazing for what it is ?

MYSELF
MYSELF
6 days ago

Simple answer – I bloody doubt it! I’ve been to Iceland and they don’t tend to take themselves too seriously or be snowflake level offended. I’m not Icelandic so can’t speak for them but they are not a people to get all bent up over a movie with Will Ferrell as a co lead in it. I’ve not hundreds of people on several trips and tbh they are as self deprecating as Brits are at the very least. The only ppl I can see being offended by this is idiots like Will Gomepert from the ‘biased broadcasting corp’ ( BBC)… Read more »

Whisker
Whisker
7 days ago

I didn’t enjoy at all the Icelandic accent when I watched the trailer, I didn’t enjoy it the first time I watched the movie. The second and third time – different story, tho I could hear some Swedish and German accents in parts (the smallest of parts). But at the end of the movie, it’s for Icelanders to say if they like it or not. I must also say I am mightly impressed with the elves as monumental character(s), tho they never show up on the screen! That was pretty brilliiant for the writers to come up with. #lushelvesforthewin #bottomsup… Read more »

Kosey
Kosey
7 days ago

I feel like I disagree with the vast majority of Will Gompertz’s reviews and in this case, I’m quite glad that I do.

Bring Back The Orchestra
Bring Back The Orchestra
7 days ago

Everyone’s offended by something nowadays!

Una
Una
7 days ago

So nice to read this interview with Kristin and Steinunn 🙂 I was wondering whether wiwibloggs would talk about Icelanders’ opinion on the movie.
Whether people get offended by that perceived stereotypical portrayal of Icelanders – that is understandable. But seeing this in context – a comedy – should soften the stance of critics.
My general perception of Icelanders in the movie was that they had a strong community spirit and only one was “bad” – the money guy. And that most liked Eurovision.

Joe
Joe
7 days ago

Iceland has already been gaining in tourist popularity the last few years, and this film probably ensured even more folks will be coming once things ease up, so I feel like Icelanders are probably cool with it.

Briekimchi
Briekimchi
8 days ago

Welcome to 2020. There’s always someone offended on someone else’s behalf…

Guilbert Enriquez
Guilbert Enriquez
8 days ago

William, you should ask the Russians if they are offended of the sterotype played well by Dan Stevens.

James
James
7 days ago

We already know the answer re: Russians, if Philip Kirkorov’s Instagram is any indication.

Xyz
Xyz
6 days ago
Reply to  James

Well Kirkorov is not yout typical Russian, isn’t he?

James
James
6 days ago
Reply to  Xyz

Looks like no one has put out a persona non grata order on Dan Stevens from the Kremlin so that’s good.

Veta
Veta
5 days ago

As a Russian I can say to you that I didn’t spot any “stereotype” about Russians played on in the movie. If you are talking about the gay thing, it’s not a stereotype, it’s a pure truth, and in fact, I’d even call it probably the most realistic thing in the whole movie. When Alexander said “Mother Russia doesn’t agree” it hit really hard, almost made me cry. It was more a satire type of a joke, and satire is considered by many a “high-quality”-type of humour. They managed to capture perfectly that spirit of “double-life” an lgbt celebrity (and… Read more »

Veta
Veta
4 days ago

Oh no I have just read an interview of Dan saying his character is from Chechnya. This already makes it kinda offensive to the victims and all those who were and still are affected by “gay purges”. Smart move of the film crew not to mention this in any way in the movie, so it remained only in Dan’s interview. Bitterly ironic, that statement is followed by “we didn’t want to belittle that danger in any way”. Well you did. In reality it would be impossible for such singer to be from Chechnya. The “gay purges” there didn’t stop once… Read more »