Directed by: #GabríelElíJóhannsson
It would be woefully misleading and derivative to describe Gleðipakkinn (known in English as The Joy Box) as an Icelandic response to the hit Netflix anthology series Black Mirror. While both Black Mirror and Gleðipakkinn are centred around a piece of technology that can rupture the lives of whoever owns it, Gleðipakkinn is filled with mysterious elements that are deliberately left unexplained, leaving many of the revelations up to the imagination of the viewer.
Arna (Camilla Hjördís Samúelsdóttir) mans the phones for Joy Box. She's only been there for a few months. In her orange sweatshirt, she resembles someone who works for a festival box office more than a company selling one of the most sought-after things in Iceland. Arna doesn't particularly care about the role or the mysterious boxes, which have become status symbols everywhere. No one really knows what the Joy Boxes do. Although it seems that Joy Box is running an outrageous scam by selling cardboard boxes for the same price as a small car, the boxes have become a must-have item for the rich.
Arna is asked to go on a delivery run the following day with Bjöggi (Samúel Þórir Drengsson), and as they journey through pitch-black snow-covered streets with the boot filled with empty – but pricy – cardboard boxes, the mythos of the boxes swirls around them. Are they magic life-solving boxes that will heal any of your ills? Are they simply a gimmick from a start-up that has cleverly conned their community into giving up their hard-earned cash for something that doesn't really work? Or are the boxes a product of something far more sinister than either Arna or Bjöggi are led to believe? Gleðipakkinn is strikingly intelligent in the way it chooses not to give you any of the answers. By the credits, the audience is left deeply mystified and under the boxes' spell.
For the majority of its runtime, Gleðipakkinn takes the form of a scandi police drama. The camera slowly zooms in, and apart from Arna's fluorescent orange pullover, the tones coalesce into a dark greige. But in the film's final portion, it shifts into a dream thriller and an exploration of film. Beautiful textured patterns flow over the face of our main character, and the noise of static on an old television evoking nostalgia and terror. These two halves of the film – the static thriller and the unexplainable dream sequence - aren't two separate films oddly sewn together. Instead, the story evolves in a mesmerising way that seems completely plausible in this strange world.
Ingeniously, the audience is left with more questions than answers, which will enchant the audience for days rather than leave them frustrated. Gleðipakkinn is richly imaginative but is also deeply grounded in reality. It will undoubtedly leave audiences ruminating on one question - what's in the box??