The Girls of Heartstone

Photographed for Constellation by Roxana Reiss

A still from  Heartstone.

A still from Heartstone.

Heartstone is director Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson’s first feature film. His short films have been selected for more than 200 festivals and have won over 60 international awards. Among these accolades are a Special Mention for Whale Valley (2013) in the Official Competition of the Cannes Film Festival and a nomination for the European Film Awards.

The film made its world premiere in the Venice Days competition at the Venice Film Festival in September 2016. In Venice, the film won the Queer Lion Award and since then, it has been screened in a total of 17 film festivals and collected 13 international awards.

Set in a remote fishing village in Iceland, Heartstone centers on teenage boys Thor and Christian, who experience a turbulent summer as one tries to win the heart of a girl, while the other discovers new feelings toward his best friend. When summer ends, and the harsh nature of Iceland takes back its rights, it's time to leave the playground and face adulthood.


Diljá Valsdóttir

On why Iceland fosters creativity: 
Icelanders usually think of themselves as artistic. I mean, if you meet an Icelander, it’s very likely that he or she fosters a dream of becoming a writer, filmmaker, or musician. A lot of people believe that having a side profession is the only way to stay mentally healthy through the dark winter months. Most of us also firmly believe in the Icelandic saying, “thetta reddast,” meaning, “It will work out somehow.” So when [Icelanders] want to start a creative venture, they usually don´t think that it will fail! It will work out, somehow.   

On her character in Heartstone: 
I play Elisabet (or Beta), the main female character in the movie. She’s a young independent woman who knows what she wants and is not afraid to show her feelings or desires. But you get the sense that under her posterior lies a young woman who possesses a genuine affection toward those in need.  

On what makes Heartstone stand out:
Three things come to mind when I think of the film. First is the story, which holds a real meaning and message for people. Secondly, I think that my fellow actors, young though they may be, are really good and Guðmundur [Arnar Guðmundsson], the director, was able to get some great performance from them. And thirdly, the film is beautifully shot by Sturla Brandth Grøvlen. I think that the film will mean different things to different people, and that is one of its strengths.


Jónína Þórdís Karlsdóttir  

On Iceland’s creative energy: 
Iceland is a beautiful and free country; freedom is creativity here. Icelandic people aren’t scared to try something new creatively. Being from such a small country just drives people to be different.

On her character in Heartstone: 
The movie is a coming-of-age story centered on two boys. I play Rakel, the main character Þór’s sister. Rakel likes to tease, she’s independent and tough, but deep inside she’s a sensitive little girl. She’s just a teenager who still has much to learn about life.

On working toward gender equality in the Icelandic arts scene: 
Iceland is a good place for women. In recent years, there has been a rapid increase in discussions about feminism, the school system, salary differences, and the status of Icelandic women in general. I’m proud to be a young woman [in the arts] in a country like Iceland; ours was the first nation to democratically elect a female president [Vigdís Finnbogadóttir]. 


Rán Ragnarsdóttir

On Iceland’s creative energy: 
[In Iceland], you have the freedom to create. You are surrounded by nature, which is inspiring, and being a part of such a small community gives insight into different worlds. Icelanders have a rich and tight culture where different groups and generations share their stories and experiences. This provides a lot of material for good stories.

On her character in Heartstone: 
I play Hafdís, one of two sisters of Þór, the main character. She isn’t like normal 17-years-old girls. She’s an artistic type who writes poems that are very dark and deep—so deep that she’s the only one to understand them. 

On her favorite memory from shooting: 
Of course, it was amazing to stay in such a beautiful place as Borgarfjörður Eystri and to shoot there. But my favorite memory is definitely when my dear friend, Jónína, who plays my sister in the movie, woke up in the middle of the night because of a spider in her bed!


Katla Njálsdóttir

On her favorite memory from set: 
I remember when we were shooting on my 13th birthday and Diljá (Beta) and I were supposed to do each other's makeup. We were laughing so hard and the director, Guðmundur [Arnar Guðmundsson], said we had to keep straight faces—but it was him who was laughing almost the whole time. He just sat in the shower with his monitor and laughed.

On her favorite actresses: 
I love the hilarious Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, as well the young Icelandic actress, Hera Hilmarsdóttir. ★

Editor’s note: Hera is also featured in Issue One of Constellation.