Terrence Malick Filming in Iceland

American film director Terrence Malick is shooting a new film in Iceland, Vísir reports.

There’s a great deal of secrecy surrounding the film thus far, but Vísir was able to confirm with sources that British actor Ben Kingsley, known for his Oscar-winning turn as Mohandas Ghandi, among other notable roles, has a part in the film. Icelandic actor Björn Thors (Paris of the North; The Deep) is also in the film.

A photo on Vísir shows Malick’s film team working in the area around the Krafla caldera in the Mývatn region in North Iceland.

Terrence Malick has filmed previously in Iceland; part of his Oscar-nominated 2011 film Tree of Life was shot in the country, as were large portions of his 2016 IMAX documentary Voyage of Time.

Vatnajökull National Park Now Largest in Western Europe

The Vatnajökull National Park is being expanded by 560 sq km (216 sq mi), Vísir reports. The entire park now covers some 14,700 sq km (5,700 sq mi) or nearly 15% of Iceland’s total land area, making it the largest national park in Western Europe.

The boundaries of the park have now extended to include the Herðubreið Reserve. Established in 1974, the reserve was named for what is colloquially recognised as “the queen of Icelandic mountains.” Mt. Herðubreið is a 1,682m (5,518ft)-tall tuya, or flat-topped, steep-sided volcano (not active since the Pleistocene era), located in the northeastern highlands, not far from the Askja volcano. The Herðubreið Reserve also includes other impressive “nature pearls,” such as the Ódaðahraun desert, known for its “unusual geological formations, sands, and broad lava fields that have been formed by various volcanic sources during different periods.”

In January, an application was formally submitted to have Vatnajökull National Park added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, which already includes the Þingvellir National Park and the island of Surtsey. Should the application be approved, the UNESCO World Heritage designation will also apply to the expanded area of the park, i.e. the former Herðubreið Reserve. A response on the application is expected by July 5.

The expansion of Vatnajökull National Park is, “…an important step in nature conservation,” remarked Minister of the Environment Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson. “With this, 0.5% of Iceland will now be part of the national park, including unique geological formations, natural spring areas, vast highlands, and then, of course, the queen of Icelandic mountains, Herðubreið… Not a bad gift for the 75th birthday of the Republic.”

Car Rental Company Introduces Driving Safety Test for Tourists

A pilot program at a Reykjavík car rental is asking tourists to take an informational driving test before leaving with their vehicle. RÚV reports that the test is intended to prepare visitors for Icelandic road conditions and thereby increase safety for all drivers. Although the test is not mandatory, people involved with the pilot hope that it may be made so for all tourists renting cars in Iceland as early as this fall.

The driving test is being offered to tourists renting cars from a single Hertz location on Flugvallavegur road in Reykjavík. (Implementing the pilot at the Keflavík airport would have simply been too difficult given the number of tourists renting cars there.) Although it’s intended to be educational, the driving test is designed in such a way as to hopefully be fun for the takers. It’s composed of ten questions related to the biggest dangers that drivers may encounter when driving in Iceland. These are taken from a database of 73 possible questions and can be changed according to the season, when driving conditions change. The wrong answers to each question are notably absurd, making the right answer is more than obvious.

The test is the brainchild of Ingi Heiðar Bergþórsson, Hertz’s Director of Services and Human Resources, and is being administered in collaboration with the Sjóvá insurance company and ICE-SAR, under the aegis of the Safe Travel program. Ingi Heiðar said that although the pilot test isn’t mandatory, 80% of the tourists who rent from the Flugvallavegur location opt to take it and, in many cases, are thankful for the information it provides. He explained that information placards with much of the same information included on the driving test have been placed on the steering wheels in rental cars for years, but many tourists do not take the time to read these before driving. He took inspiration for the test from similar ones that are administered in New Zealand, where tourists are sometimes even offered discounts on their rental or insurance costs if they take an educational driving test before setting out.

Since the test began being administered in May, Ingi Heiðar says that damage to cars rented at the Flugvallvegur location has gone down, although it’s not possible to say if this is a direct result of the test.

Ingi Heiðar hopes that tests like the one he’s designed will be soon made mandatory as part of the regulations on car rentals in Iceland.