The Brazilian viewer and reader almost always remember the Iceland through a few icons: the verse collections known as kenningar, worshiped by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, the epic poem Edda (13th century) and the singer Björk. A new vision of Iceland becomes more accessible to viewers from over 160 countries.
On June 17, 2021, Katla, the first Icelandic series originally produced by Netflix. Baltasar Kormákur signs the direction and shares the co-creation with writer and producer Sigurjón Kjartansson. The excellent script is signed by Davíð Már Stefánsson and Lilja Sigurðardóttir, and has collaborations with the creators.
Katla is a volcano located in southern Iceland that erupts every 50 to 80 years. It is partially covered by the Mýrdalsjökull glacier and lies east of the Eyjafjallajökull glacier. The nearest village is to the north and is called Vík í Mýrdal.
In the series, Katla erupted and Vík had to be evacuated. Amidst an ocean of ashes, only a few are left resigned. One event aggravates the situation: the appearance of a naked stranger, covered in ash, who identifies herself as Gunhild (Aliette Opheim).
The protagonist Gríma, played by artist and singer Guðrún Ýr Eyfjörð, becomes one of the main investigators of the enigmas that start to emerge in the village. Because? Because her sister Ása (Iris Tanja Flygenring), dead for a year, reappears in the same condition. The sisters’ childhood, marked by their mother’s suicide, is represented in flashbacks by actresses Agata Árnadóttir and Kolfinna Orradóttir, respectively.
In addition to the shock produced by this “resurrection”, the mechanic Þór (read Thor, played by Ingvar Sigurdsson), Gríma and Ása’s father, still has to deal with two ghosts from the past, both linked to the young Gunhild and a character. who comes from Sweden to meet him again. She is also called Gunhild, and is the mother of young Björn (Valter Skarsgård).
The investigations are led by geologist Darri (Björn Thors). Deputy Gísli (steinorsteinn Bachmann), involved in personal dramas with his wife Magnea (Sólveig Arnarsdóttir), turns out to be more an antagonist of the village than an ally in the elucidation. The spectator should pay special attention to Bergrún (Guðrún Gísladóttir). After traveling the world, the owner of the Vík hotel devotes herself to archaic rituals. It’s a blind spot in the narrative. It has an oracular function (provides clues about puzzles).
One of the priorities of the streaming giants has been multiculturalism: productions inspired by narratives, characters and indigenous cultures of each country. In this sense, Katla follows the line of recent hits such as Cidade Invisível (2020), a series created by Carlos Saldanha based on Brazilian folklore.
The governing idea (Robert McKee) and myth (Northrop Frye), Katla’s stewards, are between folklore and science. They are called changelings, entities of Icelandic culture. They represent the broader mytheme (Lévi-Strauss) of “swapped children” present in fairy tales and other cultures. According to belief, children of fairies or trolls (destabilizers) are replaced by human children of identical physiognomy.
Jón Árnason (1819-1888), writer and director of the Icelandic Museum in Reykjavik, was one of the first compilers of these tales in the two volumes of Icelandic Legends (1862, 1864). Both he and American folklorist Dee Ashliman highlight one aspect of changelings: their personality doesn’t change. This and other characteristics of these doubles (Doppelgänger) are highlighted in the series, especially by Bergrún.
However, folklore acquires more complexity when united with science. Darri discovers that the entities are “fabricated” by an extraterrestrial element (or intelligence) activated by the eruptions. The curb between natural and supernatural, between belief and science, between Katla volcano and the cosmos frays and becomes more and more tenuous.
One of the reasons for the biggest debate among fans who are already moving on the internet concerns the end. Grima’s relative “exchange” and the “play” she establishes with her changeling mysteriously close the first season.
Although the second season has yet to be confirmed by Netflix, this ending indicates that the orientation must be an ever-increasing scramble between the human-changelings’ soul-body. If Katla bets on this path of tension between science and myth, the viewer can wait not only for the second, but for a few seasons of high quality audiovisual narrative.
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