Tom Of Finland: The man who altered gay culture

One of the highlights of the Berlinale film festival this year was the press conference held in order to introduce the feature film “Tom Of Finland”, directed by the hottest director in Finland these days, Dome Karukoski. Tom himself will be played by the Finnish actor Pekka Strang and the Icelandic actor Þorsteinn Bachmann, who viewers of the Icelandic film “Life in a Fishbowl” (Vonarstræti) know and love, will play an American porn publisher. Other actors include Lauri Tilkanen, Jessica Grabowski and German film star Werner Daehn.

Ingvar Þórðarson has produced features, documentaries and shorts that have won awards all over the world, including 20 critically and commercially successful features, Life in a Fishbowl, the winner of record 12 awards at the Icelandic Edda Film Price Awards and The Grump, Finland’s highest grossing film 2014. Photo/Josef Perrson
Ingvar Þórðarson has produced features, documentaries and shorts that have won awards all over the world, including 20 critically and commercially successful features, Life in a Fishbowl, the winner of record 12 awards at the Icelandic Edda Film Price Awards and The Grump, Finland’s highest grossing film 2014. Photo/Josef Perrson

The film will be shot in Finland, Germany, Sweden, Spain and USA and among the multi national European producers is the Icelander Ingvar Þórðarson with his German production company Neutrinos Productions. We met Ingvar and asked the silly question: why is he involved in this project?

“I have worked with Dome before, on his film “The Grump”, and I respect him a lot. I think he is making films about things that really matter, telling stories that have to be told,“ Ingvar says. “In 2016 we still have to fight for the rights of minority groups. It’s absurd that we still take baby steps in the human evolution, but this is reality. The film “Tom of Finland” shows how a man with a medium as simple as his imagination, a pen and his drawings has been able to change the perception of, and on, an entire community. This is an extraordinary tale of an extraordinary man. Hopefully it will open eyes and get a lot conservative people to grow some pubic hair and open-mindedness.“

Aleksi Bardy and Dome Karukoski wrote the screenplay for the film, which tells the life story of Touko Laaksonen, a man who would become known around the world by his nom de guerre “Tom Of Finland”.

The story centers on Laaksonen, who returned home to Helsinki a hero after a harrowing and eventful military service in World War II, but found life during peacetime equally distressing. Persecuted for his homosexuality, he conducted secret affairs and was pressured to marry a woman.

He discovered freedom in his art, specialising in homoerotic drawings of muscular men in sexually uninhibited situations. Over the years, his work developed a worldwide following and helped fan the flames of a gay revolution in the US.

“The battle for equal rights for gay people is far from over and we have a responsibility to aid them in that. Tom Of Finland will do a lot for that battle, I‘m absolutely sure of that.“

“His drawings have had a huge impact,“ Ingvar explains. “Freddy Mercury, Lady Gaga, Madonna, and lots of others have taken inspiration from his drawings in their stage outfits. Besides being a master drawer he was a very good piano player, a jazz player, among the best in the world. He had to choose which art he wanted to serve and he chose the pen.“

The film tells the story of Touko Laaksonen (Pekka Strang, in the middle). Photo/Josef Perrson
The film tells the story of artist Touko Laaksonen, or Tom, played by Pekka Strang. Photo/Josef Perrson

Ingvar says the reception of his artwork in other countries took Laaksonen by surprise as in Finland he was not widely recognised and those who knew his work were mostly negative towards it. “I can not really know what Berlin in particular meant to Tom, but I can only imagine how coming from a small village in Finland to the capital of Europe must have felt for a 30-something man. The pulse, the lights, the tempo and heat of the town must have hit him like a hammer of pleasure!

And when he went to the US he thought that maybe one guy would meet him at the airport but there were 3000 guys waiting for him when the plane landed, all dressed in the fashion he had created in his drawings. Imagine his surprise!“

Laaksonen died in 1991, from lung failure, after having lived in L.A. the last twenty years of his life. Many gay men died from Aids in that period, amongst them the love of his life.

Thomas "Dome" Karukoski is considered to be one of the most successful Finnish film directors with over 30 festival awards and having directed six feature films that have all become blockbusters in the territory.
Thomas “Dome” Karukoski is considered to be one of the most successful Finnish film directors with over 30 festival awards and having directed six feature films that have all become blockbusters in the territory. Photo/Peltimikko

“He had a very dramatic life,“ Ingvar says. “And that‘s what we are trying to show in the film. As an artist he is known all over the world but the script writers and their team have spent seven years uncovering the mysteries of his personal life. It’s going to be a great movie.“

Asked if there have been some unexpected occurrences while filming Tom Of Finland Ingvar says there has been lots of them but what has stuck most in his mind happened at the press conference at the Berlinale.

“We were introducing the film’s subject to a lot of multi national journalists when one guy from Nigeria asked if we had any advice for gays fighting for recognition in countries where being gay is a criminal offence, even punishable by death. That gave us a lot of food for thought. What advice can you give people in those circumstances? “Just keep on fighting“? When that could result in their death. It‘s not possible to give any good advice to gay people in these countries.“

Amongst the films that Ingvar has produced in the past are the Icelandic films “Eleven Men Out” (Strákarnir okkar) and “Jitters” (Órói) that both deal with homosexual issues, is that something he thinks is important to cover in films or is it just a coincidence?

Touko Laaksonen (1920 – 1991), best known by his pseudonym Tom of Finland, was a Finnish artist notable for his stylized homoerotic fetish art and his influence on late twentieth century gay culture. Photo/The Tom of Finland foundation
Touko Laaksonen (1920 – 1991), best known by his pseudonym Tom of Finland, was a Finnish artist notable for his stylized homoerotic fetish art and his influence on late twentieth century gay culture. Photo/The Tom Of Finland foundation

“I don‘t go out of my way to produce films about gay issues per se. My interests lie in producing good stories and I also want to stress that everyone has the right to be as he is, no matter what. When we made “Eleven Men Out”, for example, it was believed that no gay guys played football.

Now, ten years later, famous footballers are coming out and it‘s still not even an easy procedure. I think that film broke some ice for gay guys. It was shown all over the world and I think it played a part in opening people’s eyes that of course there are gay guys in football teams like everywhere else.

“I don‘t think that anyone is going be outraged or shocked. Maybe in Russia or Africa, but not here in the West.“

The battle for equal rights for gay people is far from over and we have a responsibility to aid them in that. Tom Of Finland will do a lot for that battle, I‘m absolutely sure of that.“

Some people think that because of the film’s subject it is bound to be very explicit and shocking in some ways, but Ingvar says there is no need for such worries. “It‘s a mainstream film without adult scenes, not a sugar-coated Hollywood film of course, but I don‘t think that anyone is going be outraged or shocked. Maybe in Russia or Africa, but not here in the West.“

The shooting of Tom of Finland is almost half done and the film will be introduced to potential distributors at the Toronto film festival in September. It is set to premier at the Berlinale in February next year.

Laaksonen (in the middle) with a friend at the editor’s office. Photo/Josef Perrson

Main photo/The Tom Of Finland Foundation: Tom Of Finland’s work featured homo-erotic depictions of men which became iconic works among the gay community. 

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.


Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.


    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.


        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.


        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us

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