11 Mar 2022
Gudmund Helmsdal, Rakel Helmsdal, Torfinnur Jakupsson
Bui Dam, Nicolaj Falck
You probably don’t associate the Faroe Islands with cinema. In fact, the only films you’ve probably heard of from the Archipelago are… well… no sorry, I’ve got nothing. Thankfully, director Gudmund Helmsdal is here to change that with Brother Troll, an eccentric short historical drama/comedy with a distinctive island feel.
Jakup (Bui Dam) and Pætur (Nicolaj Falck) are brothers living in the rugged Faroe Island countryside sometime in the 19thcentury. Still mourning the loss of their older brother, the pair persevere in the cold and inhospitable territory. But when Pætur’s dogmatic religious beliefs lead to him developing a sense of impending dread, an unexpected tragedy strikes.
There is an indefinable quality to Brother Troll that makes it as interesting as it is entertaining. The film features a typically Scandinavian-style mixture of intense and harrowing dramatics alongside genuinely hilarious dark comedy that intertwine seamlessly and fluently to tell its story. The similar coupling of supernatural elements and brutalist realism turn the story into something of a fable, that speaks to the audience’s fears of the unknown as well as the all-too-familiar. When considered with the odd-coupling of the brothers, whose personalities could not be much more contradictory, the film is a fine exercise in finding a balance of opposites.
The two leads give excellent performances. Nicolaj Falck’s Pætur lives and breathes religious dogma, and his stoicism is an evident barrier for his bond with his easy-going brother. Bui Dam’s charismatic turn as Jakup is the source of much of the film’s comedy, and he brilliantly conveys a large and domineering presence on-screen. Whilst the rift between the pair is portrayed well in the film’s earlier scenes, the devastation and grief so brilliantly demonstrated by Falck’s Pætur encapsulates the familiar terms that so many brothers are aware of – that despite differences, family ties always emerge, even if they do not solve every problem.
The historic past of the Faroe Islands is impressively realised, with the ruthless, rocky landscape of the islands used to its fullest potential. The scenery matches that of similar productions which enjoy considerably larger budgets such as Vikings, or even The Last Jedi, thanks to Helmsdal’s scene framing and the outstanding cinematography of Rogvi Rasmussen. The only hit to the film’s authenticity is the costumes, which appear far too clean and fresh for a pair of weathered and roughshod island-dwellers.
For both its engrossing examination of brotherhood, and its darkly-comic, fable-like story, Brother Troll is a roaringly successful enigmatic short film. Viewers will laugh, cry, smile and cringe their way through its unpredictable and shocking plot, and immerse in the stunning landscape in which the story is set and presented. You’ll remember this film from the Faroe Islands – that is for sure.