Baltasar’s New Series Recreates Battle of Hastings in Iceland

Katla Netflix

Baltasar Kormákur’s RVK Studios is collaborating with CBS Studios to produce King and Conqueror, a mediaeval series set in Britain. The ambitious project, which will feature the famous Battle of Hastings, will involve extensive preparations and filming in Heiðmörk, with a significant build and dismantling process.

King and Conqueror

Last week, it was reported that Baltasar Kormákur and his production company, RVK Studios, were set to create a mediaeval series with CBS Studios, centred around William the Conqueror and King Harold II of England.

Titled King and Conqueror, the series will feature James Norton and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in the lead roles and will be filmed in Iceland, both in studios and around Reykjavik. Michael Robert Johnson, known for his work on the television series Sherlock Holmes, will write the series.

Read More: IR profile of Baltasar Kormákur

“This is one of the most extensive projects undertaken here and is particularly complex because it’s set in mediaeval Britain, mostly,” Baltasar told RÚV last week.

The filming period is scheduled from February to July next year. RVK Studios has applied for a filming permit in Garðabær for shooting in Heiðmörk, a conservation area on the outskirts of Reykjavík, popular for recreational activities. The company plans to construct a small village, the size of which is yet to be determined, on a gravel plain at Hjallaflatir in Heiðmörk.

Battle of Hastings

As noted by RÚV, the preparation time would span two to three months, with shooting lasting two weeks, followed by one to two weeks for dismantling. The parking area would not be accessible during the preparation, filming, and dismantling phases.

RVK Studios has also applied to film the famous Battle of Hastings on the fields at Hjallaflatir. Defensive walls would be erected, and the scene would depict 180 people fighting and between 50 to 70 horses. The preparation for this would take two to four weeks, filming would last five days, and dismantling would take a week.

Lindsey Martin, Vice President at CBS, described the series as innovative and featuring world-class actors in a recent interview with Deadline. “We are incredibly proud of what the production team has already achieved and can’t wait to see the final product on screen.”

Women’s National Team Secures Historic Win Against Denmark

Iceland national football team

The Icelandic national team secured a 0-1 victory over Denmark in Viborg last night. The win is historic, as it marked the first time that a senior Icelandic football team defeated a Danish side in Denmark, RÚV reports. The Icelandic defence was notably solid, with eighteen-year-old Fanney Inga Birkisdóttir standing out in her debut international match.

A lot at stake for both teams

It was clear before that game that Iceland would finish third in their group of the Nations League; Wales, at the bottom of the group, had been relegated to League B. Meanwhile, Germany and Denmark were in contention for the top spot, which grants a place in the Nations League semifinals. The top two teams of each group in League A also qualify for the Olympic Games next year.

Despite Iceland having missed out on the top two spots, a victory was important as it meant that the team could improve their position in the world rankings, which is important for seeding in upcoming competitions.

A noteworthy debut

As noted by RÚV, the atmosphere was lively ahead of yesterday’s match in Viborg. The Danes arrived in strong numbers at the 10,000-capacity stadium. The Danish team had an early scoring opportunity but missed the target. This seemed to relieve some pressure off the Icelandic team.

The game marked an international debut for 18-year-old goalkeeper Fanney Inga Birkisdóttir, who displayed remarkable confidence in goal. The Icelandic defence held strong in the first half. Playing deep in their own half, they successfully thwarted the Danish efforts to find openings, except for an early chance.

Karólína Lea and captain Glódís Perla came closest to scoring for Iceland. Karólína intercepted a weak clearance from the goalkeeper, narrowly missing the goal with a long-range effort. Glódís threatened the Danish goal with an early header. The captain consistently made her presence felt, especially in set-piece situations.

Second half

At the start of the second half, Denmark intensified their attack. The Danes created two good chances, but on both occasions, Fanney Inga was more than equal to the task in goal. Her impressive performance last night, following a strong season with Valur in the top women’s league in Iceland, cements her status as a future star goalkeeper, RÚV maintained.

Karólína Lea eventually scored the winning goal of the game in the 77th minute. After her initial shot was saved, the ball bounced back to her feet and she slotted it home. “Karólína had a fantastic game and it almost seemed like there were two or three copies of her on the field in Viborg tonight. She was everywhere,” RÚV noted.

The Danish team relentlessly pressed forward, aware that the game between Wales and Germany, which was being played at the same time, was goalless. No matter how hard they tried, however, all their attacks were halted by the solid Icelandic defence, with the reliable Fanney Inga backing them.

The disappointment for Denmark was profound, with the Danish national broadcaster describing the result as a “fiasco,” especially as the match between Wales and Germany ended in a goalless draw, meaning that Germany finished above Denmark.

A positive international break

As noted by RÚV, this two-match international window has been tremendously positive. The team scored two goals against a spirited Welsh side and secured an away victory against Denmark. Iceland has thus won three out of six matches in League A of the Nations League. The victory against Denmark bodes well for the future, especially considering the initially grim outlook in the Nations League. “It represents a perfect end to the year for the team,” RÚV noted.

The next challenge for the team will be in February when Iceland competes in the playoffs to maintain their position in League A. The matches will be played abroad, although the venues have yet to be determined.

PISA: Icelandic Students Lagging Behind Nordic Peers

OECD

The 2022 PISA results show a decline in literacy and other skills among Nordic countries, particularly in Iceland. Professor Emeritus Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson has suggested that the growing influence of English in Iceland’s linguistic environment may be a key factor affecting reading comprehension.

Declining literacy across the Nordic countries

The results of the OECD’s 2022 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) were published yesterday. The assessment measures the proficiency of 15-year-old students in reading comprehension, science literacy, and mathematics literacy.

As noted in a press release on the government’s website yesterday, the results indicate a decline in student performance in participating countries compared to previous assessments. This decline is observed across all of the Nordic countries, with a more significant decrease having occurred among Icelandic participants.

Iceland ranks below the average of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in all three categories, and a lower percentage of Icelandic students possess basic and exceptional skills compared to the Nordic and the OECD average.

Signs of increasing inequality

Among other notable findings in the assessment is that students with parents in lower socio-economic positions fare worse in the survey across participating countries. As noted on the government’s website, there are — similar to other Nordic countries — signs of increasing inequality in educational achievement in Iceland over time, especially in reading comprehension.

A lower percentage of Icelandic boys achieve basic competency in science literacy (61%) compared to girls (68%), with the most significant gender gap in basic competency in reading comprehension (53% for boys versus 68% for girls).

“It is clear from the PISA 2022 results that authorities, municipalities, institutions, and organisations need to unite in understanding the reasons behind the negative trends in reading comprehension and literacy revealed in the survey and respond accordingly,” the government website notes.

It all comes down to reading comprehension

Having published an article entitled “The Bleak PISA Findings” (Kolsvört PISA-skýrsla), Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson, Professor Emeritus of Icelandic and Linguistics at the University of Iceland, discussed the PISA results on the evening news yesterday.

“I think it all comes down to reading comprehension, although there are three aspects to the test: reading, science, and mathematics, both the mathematics and science portions of the assessment are based on reading comprehension. These are text-based tasks,” Eiríkur remarked.

“Reading comprehension is deteriorating, and that’s linked to the status of the Icelandic language in society. We are faced with a drastically changed linguistic environment where English has become a much larger part of teenagers’ linguistic surroundings than it used to be.”

Eiríkur also noted, as he had done in his article, that the Icelandic translation of the PISA tests had not always been adequate. Referring to a 2020 research paper by Auður Pálsdóttir and Sigríður Ólafsdóttir — which demonstrated significant discrepancies in word frequency categories between the original texts and their translations (meaning the Icelandic words in the tests are often rarer than their English counterparts) — Eirikur suggested that the Icelandic translation of the assessment may simply be too heavy when compared to the assessment in other languages.

Eiríkur noted, however, that he had not examined the texts of the latest PISA survey.

Alarming trends

Eiríkur observed that these two considerations were not the only causes for concern. The latest assessment, as previously noted, indicated that children from poorer social and economic backgrounds performed worse in the assessment. Eiríkur characterised this trend as being particularly “alarming.”

“It’s a major concern. It means that these teenagers are highly likely to drop out of school and then be trapped in low-wage jobs that require little education when they enter the job market,” Eiríkur stated.

When asked what he would do if he were in the shoes of the Minister of Education, Eiríkur replied: “I don’t think it would be enough to just be the Minister of Education because this isn’t just about the school system. It’s about the entire society; we need to change the status of the Icelandic language. Parents and homes play a significant role, and society as a whole needs to prioritise Icelandic much more.”

Pandemic effects

As noted on the government’s website, the pandemic had various impacts on school operations, teachers, and students in the OECD countries. Two-thirds of the countries participating in PISA 2022 closed schools for three months or longer. The overall performance trend of countries from 2018 to 2022 suggests the pandemic’s impact, particularly in mathematical literacy and reading comprehension.

Blue Lagoon Extends Closure Until December 9

The Blue Lagoon Iceland

The Blue Lagoon has extended its closure until December 9. Seismic activity in the Reykjanes peninsula has decreased over the past weeks, with significantly fewer and smaller earthquakes being registered in the area.

Seismic activity continues to decrease

On November 9, the Blue Lagoon announced that it would be closing its lagoon, hotels, spa, and restaurants owing to the ongoing geological unrest in the area. The closure was initially slated to last until November 16 but was later extended until December 7.

The Blue Lagoon has now announced that it will be extending the closure for two days, or until December 9. As noted in an update on the Icelandic MET Office’s website on December 1, seismic activity in the Reykjanes peninsula has continued to decrease, with significantly fewer and smaller earthquakes being registered in the area over recent weeks. Most of the earthquakes are measuring below one in magnitude.

For more information on the situation in the Reykjanes peninsula, click here.

Statement from the Blue Lagoon in full:

“The current closure of Blue Lagoon will remain in effect until 07:00 on December 9, at which point the situation will be reassessed. The current closure of Silica Hotel and Retreat Hotel will remain in effect until 07:00 on December 12, at which point the situation will be reassessed. All guests with reservations during the closure will be contacted.”