The Icelandic film Heartstone has won the hearts of critics and audiences around the world since it had it‘s premier at the Venice film festival in September. It has been screened at 16 film festivals around the world, winning in total 17 awards including best actors for it‘s young stars, Baldur Einarsson and Blær Hinriksson, at the Marrakech International Film Festival in Morocco last month.
Now it has finally premiered in Iceland and Baldur and Blær are a bit nervous about how their peers will react to the movie, but mostly they are excited.
The two young men entering the café do not look like movie stars. They‘ve come straight from school and look like any other 14 and 15-year-old schoolboys on a cold winter‘s day in Iceland; bundled up in parkas with their schoolbags on their back. But looks can deceive and underneath the plain attire they are in fact stars of one of the most well received Icelandic film ever. Having walked the red carpet in Venice and Marrakech to the cheering of adoring crowds how do they feel about Heartstone finally reaching Icelandic movie theatres and thereby becoming available to everyone who knows them?
“It‘s gonna be different,“ Blær admits. „Everyone who knows us is going to have an opinion on the film and tell it straight out and as these are the people that one cares about it‘s gonna matter more than what others think. But hopefully they will like it.“
“I‘m not so sure,“ Baldur says. “I don‘t look upon our characters in the film as Baldur and Blær, they are just Kristján and Þór and have nothing to do with who we are in real live.“
Has the experience of acting in a movie changed their lives?
“Oh, yes! It has changed everything,“ Baldur exclaims. „We‘ve made lots of new friends, gotten to know a lot of people and it has been a great experience over all.“
“It didn‘t happen before that people came up to you and asked for an autograph,“ Blær adds with a smile. “It‘s a bit weird, but also great fun.“
“I never thought about playing Kristján any differently because he might be gay. He‘s a boy like every other boy whether he is attracted to boys or girls. That really is not an issue.“
How did it feel to get the award as best actors at a big festival like the one in Marrakech?
“It was an amazing experience,“ says Blær. “It was like being in a weird dream that you didn‘t want to wake from.“
“It was great,“ Baldur adds. “But I‘m sure that this first award will not be our last!“
So you are determined to become actors ‘when you grow up’?
“Definetily,“ Baldur exclaims. “I could not imagine doing anything else.“
“I don’t know for sure,“ says Blær. “Everyone in my father’s family is an actor so it‘s always been assumed that I would become one too, but I play handball too and I would not mind becoming a professional handballer. We will see.“
“I always wanted to be an actor,“ says Baldur. “But I never dreamed it would be so amazing. I‘m extremely happy to have gotten this experience. It exceeded my wildest hopes.“
Hearstone (Hjartasteinn) deals with coming of age in a remote village in Iceland in an unspecified time in the past and one of the things it deals with is Blær’s character, Kristján, realizing that he is gay. Was it hard to put oneself in that situation?
“Only to begin with,“ says Baldur. “But we had become very good friends by then and trusted each other completely, so it soon became easy.“
“The film is not about being gay,“ says Blær. “It‘s about the friendship of two boys. When Kristján realizes that his feelings for Þór are more than friendship it makes their relationship more complicated, but friendship prevails.“
It‘s obvious that to them the gay aspect of the film is of no importance. “It‘s just about feelings,“ Blær explains. “It does not matter if you are gay, lesbian, trans or whatever, the feelings are always the same. It‘s just being human. I never thought about playing Kristján any differently because he might be gay. He‘s a boy like every other boy whether he is attracted to boys or girls. That really is not an issue.“
Heartstone was shot on location in a remote village in the east of Iceland, Borgarfjörður eystri, where the wi-fi could not be relied upon and everything was totally different from what the boys are used to. And they admit that it was a strange experience to be so far from everything they know for two months.
“It was hard at times,“ Baldur admits. “But I would do it again in a heartbeat!“
“Yes, I don‘t think people realise how hard it is,“ Blær adds. “It can be emotionally exhausting and sometimes one almost gets depressed after filming a difficult scene, but mostly it was great fun. Everyone who worked on the film was really amazing and the people at Borgarfjörður eystri are wonderful!“
But has the fame gone to their heads? Do they feel in any way different from the other kids at school now?
„No, not at all,“ they exclaim in unison. “We are no different from the others!“
“One tries to stay grounded in reality,“ says Baldur. “ It‘s the only approach that makes sense. It‘s not like we are international movie stars or something! We are the same boys we always were.“
What is the biggest learning you‘ve drawn from working on that movie?
“Mostly I learned to work with others and show everyone who I worked with the same respect,“ says Blær.
“It taught me a lot about making movies,“ says Baldur. “And the subject matter of Heartstone opened some doors into understanding human nature. I learned a lot from this film and I would gladly do it all over again.“
“It teaches you a lot to have to put yourself in the situation of the character you are playing,“ says Blær. “Usually you don‘t think a lot about how people different from yourself are feeling, but Kristján is very different from me so I had to push my self hard to really feel what he was feeling. It is a rewarding experience.“
“It sometimes took me a long time to snap out of Þór and into Baldur again. I owe my mother an apology for how I behaved the last two months of making Heartstone. Sorry, mom, it was not me, it was Þór!“
“Yes,“ Baldur agrees. “You are forced to put your own life on hold and really live the life of the character. It sometimes took me a long time to snap out of Þór and into Baldur again. I owe my mother an apology for how I behaved the last two months of making Heartstone. Sorry, mom, it was not me, it was Þór!“
Having been a part of the international film star world since September is it not hard to adjust to normal life again?
“It‘s a bummer,“ Blær says with a grin. “Having to do the dishes, take the bus to school and all this boring everyday things. It‘s a downer. No, I‘m joking, it‘s fine. It‘s just life.“
Have people in Iceland started recognizing you on the street?
“No, not yet,“ Baldur admits. “I went to Smárabíó to buy a ticket for Heartstone the other day and the girl in the ticket booth didn‘t recognise me even if she had a huge poster of my face right before her eyes all day. But that‘s all gonna change now, I guess.“
Heartstone is being shown at Smárabíó, Laugarásbíó and Háskólabíó in Reykjavík, at Selfossbíó, at Borgarbíó in Akureyri and at Bíóhöllin Akranesi (and will be shown in more cinemas in the countryside) and judging from the reactions it has gotten abroad we must assume that these two will soar right to the heart of the Icelandic nation.
And I think it‘s save to say that they deserve it. We have not seen the last of them, that‘s for sure.
Note: In relation to the films premier in Iceland the producers have released videos where Icelandic celebrities talk about their first love. The public is encouraged to share their stories under the hashtag #hjartasteinn