Wolka arrives in Icelandic theatres today, RÚV reports. The Polish-Icelandic production made its debut at this year’s Reykjavík International Film Festival and is the last film made by director Árni Ólafur Ásgeirsson, who died last spring at the age of 49, just three months after being diagnosed with cancer.
Wolka tells the story of a Polish woman who has just finished a 15-year sentence in prison for murder. For reasons known only to herself, she breaks parole and travels to Iceland in search of a woman.
The film, Árni Ólafur’s fourth, was in the works for some time—almost a decade, in fact. Árni Ólafur, who was married to Polish set designer Marta Luiza Macuga, had lived in Poland and wanted to make a movie about Polish society in Iceland. After moving back to Iceland, he met screenwriter Michal Godzic. They began working on the script together and nine years later, the film is finally ready for audiences.
In addition to its debut at RIFF, a special screening of Wolka was also held in the Westman Islands. “It was certainly emotional for my son and I,” said Marta. “It was so strange to be there without Árni. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the Westmans. Wherever I went, I felt like Árni should be there with us. It was easier here in Reykjavík, the team was with me so it was more bearable. I could enjoy it more and celebrate the movie coming out. It’s done and people will appreciate it.”
Olga Bołądź, one of Poland’s most prominent film stars, played the leading role of Anna. “I met Árni Ólafur in Poland,” she recalled. “He called and asked if I wanted to play Anna. I read the script and fell for it, it was such a beautiful role that offered up so many possibilities. I said yes—yes, thank you. He was one of the most remarkable directors I’ve ever worked with.”
Filming in the Westmans during the winter was difficult, Olga noted, but she recalled it positively. “It was hard because of the weather, it was freezing. But Iceland is such a beautiful country and the people friendly and showed me such kindness, especially the Poles because everywhere I went, I met Poles. They were really proud that there was a film being made about Poles who live in Iceland. I hope that they’ll like it.”
Olga believes that Wolka is a story that will have a broad appeal. “The film is part mystery and part adventure, but it is also a family drama. I think that everyone can relate to family drama.” And while the story may have particular significance for Poles living in Iceland, Olga believes that it will expand people’s notions about this community. “The story is certainly about Polish society [in Iceland], but it shows it in a new light. Árni wanted to show that Poles are not just a labour force, but also people with feelings, who laugh and cry. We are normal people like all other nations.”
An earlier version of the article falsely stated that Árni passed away last year.