Icelandic Series Katla Premieres on Netflix Today

Katla Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir

Just ten years ago it was unthinkable that a foreign company as big as Netflix would be interested in producing an Icelandic TV series for the global market, according to director Baltasar Kormákur. Icelandic series Katla, co-written and co-directed by Baltasar, premieres on the streaming platform today. The fictional drama takes place in Vík í Mýrdal, South Iceland, during a volcanic eruption so intense it starts melting a glacier from which “mysterious elements” start to emerge “with consequences no one could ever have foreseen.”

Katla is the first Icelandic television series produced by Netflix in collaboration with Reykjavík Studios. Containing ten episodes, the series was written by Baltasar along with Sigurjón Kjartansson, Davíð Már Stefánsson and Lilja Sigurðardóttir. Lilja and Baltasar also directed the series alongside Börkur Sigþórsson.

“It’s an idea I got quite a long time ago and was playing around with,” Baltasar told RÚV. “What if the glaciers would melt and we have no idea what’s under them. Then it developed. I knew it wouldn’t be easy because it’s heavy in production.” Then Baltasar received a call from Netflix and the idea suddenly became a real possibility.

Baltasar describes Katla as a combination of folktale, science fiction, and psychological “noir mystery,” a form he says provided lots of freedom. “We stuck to a certain realism in terms of what the situation would be like after one year of a volcanic eruption. But then we let go of the reins and it was as if the team filled with energy, it was a lot of fun.”

Baltasar Resumes Filming of ‘Supernatural Volcano Drama’

Baltasar Kormákur is set to resume filming his eight-part Netflix series Katla, RÚV reports. Described as a “supernatural volcano drama,” the series stars Guðrún Ýr Eyfjörð, better known as the musician GDRN, Íris Tanja Flygenring, Ingvar Sigurðsson, Þorsteinn Bachmann, Sólveig Arnarsdóttir, and Swedish actors Aliette Opheim and Valter Skarsgård. The Everest director is releasing the series through his own production company, RVK Studios.

Katla follows the lives of the residents of Vík, on the south coast of Iceland, a year after the Katla volcano erupts. As a glacier near the volcano begins to melt, many in the village are forced to evacuate, while the stalwarts who remain try to keep the village, which has largely become a ghost town, alive. The melting glacier uncovers long-hidden secrets, however, all of which have unexpected consequences on the characters.

According to a recent interview with Deadline, Baltasar began working on the series before the COVID-19 pandemic reached the Nordic countries and was able to complete a few weeks of filming before having to put the production on hold. He anticipates needing three additional weeks to complete filming, which will conclude in July.

The production has been able to resume with a reduced crew and social distancing precautions. The sheer size of RVK Studios is a particular boon in circumstances such as these; at 45,200 square feet, it’s one of the biggest studios in Europe and is located in an isolated area. “So, we could control very easily, or actually very clearly, the number of people in the space,” Baltasar explained to the film industry publication. “I came up with kind of a colour-coded spacing system so that people wearing the same colours know which group they are and they are only allowed in certain spaces. There will never be more than 20 people with the same colour. This way, we could segregate the studio down to four main spaces and we minimised the crew and try to keep the two-metre distance.”

The cast and crew were also all tested for the virus before filming resumed, the set and equipment are regularly sanitised, and everyone’s temperatures are checked every morning. Baltasar said he believes his cast and crew are “honestly…more safe on that set than anywhere else. I live with four children so we vary from six to eight at home and you can’t keep them in the house. I think that because of the quarantine and the measures we did on set, it actually became a very safe spot.”

Asked how filming amidst the coronavirus crisis compares with other challenges that he’s faced on previous projects, Baltasar told Deadline that “It is in some way very similar. When I was making Everest, I remember saying, let’s bow our head to the mountain and accept what it gives you. You can’t fight nature, you have to respect it and work with it, unafraid. And the same goes with the ocean in Adrift and The Deep. And now with the virus.”

Woman At War Wins Ten Eddas

Director Benedikt Erlingsson’s Woman At War (Kona fer í strið) won in all ten of the categories that it was nominated for at the Eddas, Iceland’s most prestigious Film and Television award, on Friday night RÚV reports.

The film, which was also chosen as Iceland’s submission for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, stars Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir and tells the story of an eco-activist whose efforts to disrupt large-scale industry in Iceland are complicated when she learns that her long-awaited adoption is about to become a reality. It is set to be adapted in the US by Jodie Foster.

Woman At War won in the categories of Film of the Year, Script, Sound, Editing, Cinematography, Actress in a Starring Role, Set Design, Score, Special Effects, and Best Director.

Director Baldvin Z’s Let Me Fall (Lof mér að falla) was actually nominated for more Eddas—12 in total—but only won in four categories: Costume Design, Makeup, Actress in a Supporting Role, and Actor in a Supporting Role.

See a trailer of Woman at War herewith English subtitles and Let Me Fall here.



Netflix to Co-Produce Its First Icelandic Series

Netflix will be co-producing its first Icelandic TV series, The Valhalla Murders, RÚV reports. Variety confirms that the streaming giant will be investing €5.5 million [$6.3 million] in the eight-part series, which is set to premier Christmas 2019 on RÚV.

The story will center around Arnar, a Copenhagen-based police profiler who returns to Iceland to investigate his home country’s first serial killer case. At first, the murders don’t seem to be related, but then Arnar and local cop Kata discover that they are all connected to a now-closed home for boys called Valhalla, and the horrendous crimes that took place there 35 years before.

The series—which will be in Icelandic, despite its English title—has been coauthored by a talented group of writers: Margrét Örnólfsdóttir (Trapped 2 and Prisoners), Ottó Geir Borg (I Remember You), Mikael Torfason (Made in Iceland) and crime author Óttar M. Norðfjörð. Björn Thors (Prisoners; Paris of the North) will star as Arnar and Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir (Prisoners; Trapped) as Kata.

“This is a historic contract with Netflix” said Magnús Geir Þórðarson, RÚV’s director general. “This fascinating project in general is a big result for our more ambitious and focused work at RÚV aimed at massively increasing the selection, distribution, and above all else, the quality of Icelandic TV material.”

Two Thirds of Icelanders Have Netflix

Two out of every three Icelandic residents have access to Netflix at home, according to a recent MMR survey. The data represents a big change since two years ago, when only one third had access to the service. RÚV reported first.

Young people seem most enthusiastic about the media provider: 90% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 have access to Netflix in their home. In comparison, just 24% of seniors have access to Netflix.

Netflix access is more common in the Reykjavík capital area than in rural Iceland, and access rates show a positive correlation with income levels. Politically speaking, supporters of the Pirate Party and the Reform Party are the most likely to have access to Netflix in their homes, with about three out of every four answering affirmatively. Progressive Party supporters are the least likely to, with only about half using the service at home.