Reynir Lyngdal’s chilly Icelandic thriller Frost has been described as a distant relative to Ridley’ Scott’s original Alien movie. And even though it’s a lot bore low budget, there are similarities. For instance, the characters are not really aware of what they’re dealing with, only that something is wrong. Very wrong.
Anna Gunndís Guðmundsdóttir, who convincingly played the female lead in Frost, received a “special mention” by the jury at the Peace & Love Film Festival 2013. On the day of the screening, I hooked up with her for a chat.
Anna Gunndís Guðmundsdóttir graduated as an actress in 2010, then she moved abroad and worked in Spain at a surf camp, mainly “because she wanted to learn how to surf”. Then she started working with a Danish performance group Signa, which worked a lot in German speaking countries like Germany and Austria. Following that, Anna moved back to Iceland, and started working up north, at the only professional theatre outside of Reykijavik. She also did a New Year’s comedy, an annual peformance put together to make fun of what had been happening in Iceland during the year. It was around that time, that the script for “Frost” came along.
– I had just moved back to Iceland when the wife of director Reynir Lyngdal sent him a picture of me. I had the audition together with my former class mate. We rehearsed for four hours together. I got the part. He didn’t.
This filmed was filmed on location, on the Icelandic glacier. What was it like?
It was quite hectic, since it was a low-budget film. It was in January, and after a while I never expected to be warm again. There was one day when the truck took six hours to get us to the location, instead of one. It’s called the Greenland storm. The wind was 50 metres per second, and we had to be three people that went out together, and we had to follow lines, because it’s very easy to lose direction. On one occasion we were stuck, and the truck had broken down. It was real! But the cameraman said “let’s shoot something while we’re here!” There were two days where we had to cancel due to the weather.
It must have been beautiful, too?
– Yes, when the weather is good, it’s the most amazing thing. It’s so silent, and there was only four hours of light during the day in January. And in the middle of the night, you see the Northern lights.
– I’m kind of an impulsive actor, and once I was pretending that something was happening, and broke both my front teeth in the toilet. Luckily, the producer paid for it!
What are your main aspirations?
– To begin with, it was theatre. But I’ve always been very much into film, and at the moment I prefer making films and acting in films. If you have a good director, and a good crew, it’s more secure. You get private space, and there are not a hundred people watching you, maybe only ten. You can try things out, make various mistakes until you get it. And then you’re done, and don’t have to do it again. Also, editing can make you look good, if you haven’t done a good enough job!
Did you have any other hobbies and interests when you were younger?
– I used to play the violin, but I never bothered rehearsing. I got a new violin for my conformation, and two years later, I quit. I still have the violin, but no one would want to hear me play! At one point, I also considered becoming a veterinary. I joined a vet on the countryside, who handled cows. I had imagined it to be a cute job, mainly having to do with kittens and puppies, and thought “this is not what I want to do”. I come from a small town, that had a professional theatre, and was lucky to land roles there when I was 16 and 17 years old. And once you’re in, you’re kind of in. Then I was part of a youth theatre.
Do you have any role models, heroes or heroines?
– My mother has aways inspired my, in several ways. She has seven kids, and should get some kind of award for that! I used to say Tim Burton, for his daring ways of visualizing. The form itself and ways of acting. But he keeps doing the same thing over and over. Like, “dark love that’s not gonna happen”. But Helena Bonham-Carter is amazing. I’m inspired by the movies by Ulrich Seidl, who is an Austrian director. Harsh, documentary style movies. He really digs deep, and often uses real people in real situations, but it’s very artistic in between. It very subtle. Another movie that I love is “Amelie”, just because of the setting. The fact that almost all of it is framed in a mix of green and red colors. You don’t really notice it the first time you see it, but if you watch it between five and ten times, like I have, you realize how important it is. Costumes and setting is very important to me. I tend to fall for harsh stories that are beautifully realized. Film making is cooperation. Being good at communicating, and allowing other people to participate. Because there are definitely other people out there that have better ideas than I do.
How is your own self confidence?
– It goes up and down, of course. At the age of 22 I didn’t believe I could become an actress, and only a year later I got into the acting school. And several times during school I felt that I wasn’t good enough to do it. But sometimes you feel that it’s right, and then you believe in it again. Confidence as an actor or director goes up and down, and now I have to start writing drafts for school. And I think it’s hard to show people your own stuff. Of course I will be scared of handing them over. And making mistakes is a gift. That’s how you learn. I’m also very impulsive, I just jump on things. Especially when I’ve had a lot of coffee. My husband always notices. Sometimes he’s like “did you just drink coffee? I tend to do stuff and think about it afterwards, which is often what you need, in order to be creative. I think you need to throw things out, and keep the good bits. Most things I’ve done was just and e-mail And once you’ve pressed “send” you can’t to anything about it. It can be embarrassing, but you can always pull out. And you always need to remember that almost everyone has this little heart that’s afraid of not being up to standard.
In the summer of 2013, Anna finished shooting TV episodes for “People in the block house” and in August, she moved to New York to study directing at New York University.
Are you more of a director than an actor?
– I think I’m more of a control freak, ha ha. I don’t want to stop acting, but I’d really like to be able travel, and choose which projects in which to participate.
How come you ended up in New York?
– I looked at lots of schools, but in the end I had to go to America. Different things happened that kind of told me that it was meant to be. I entered this application procedure, which took about three months. I had to provide some videos, and some writing that I had done. Then I was called for an interview, and in the end I was accepted!
– Anders Lundqvist
Photo: Malin Sydne