01 June 2005

American Opiate of the Icelandic Masses

I thought that being in a new country would give me all sorts of new cultural experiences, including TV and movies, but I've discovered that American shows and movies still reign supreme.

There are about 5 stations here, only one of which we get, and it's just called "the TV" It plays a dazzling medley of English, British, Danish, and Icelandic shows, all of which are shown in their entirety (no ad breaks halfway through) and conveniently subtitled in Icelandic if they're not a locally produced show. We get Desperate Housewives, we get crappy movies ("3 Men and a Baby" on a Saturday night? Can't think of anything grander) and we get "I Einum Grænum", a locally produced gardening show. Initially, it just looks like your average show talking about how much to water daisies and the like, but last time we saw it, the president of Iceland was on, talking about something (trees perhaps?) Guess he's a garden lover.

At times I miss having 147 channel choices, but the nice thing is that you can see very quickly if there really is nothing on TV worth watching and not spend hours in front of the TV guide channel. Strangely though, there still is the "TV Guide" magazine, most of which does not actually contain listings of what's on TV. There are ads for mattresses and dishwashers, articles about fish catching, and about half a page of TV listings.

On those big nights out, there's also a selection of movie theaters, again playing mostly American films. For example, J and I went to see Star Wars on Saturday night (you'd think a big movie-going night, right?) at 10:30 pm. The theater was right downtown, but when we arrived 10 minutes before the show, we had our pick of seats, and the audience didn't get much bigger before the show started.

The movies are all subtitled in Icelandic, so it's a good way to learn some new words, although the name translations are sometimes creative- "Darth Vader" was translated as "Black Head" for example. The audience was remarkably un-rambunctious too, with no cheering or clapping at the Big moments, like the very beginning when the intro story disappears into the stars, or when Vader's helmet is lowered.

Another thing that takes getting used to is the intermission. Just at the moment when the fighting is the most exciting, the lovers are reunited, or somebody dies, the screen goes blank and the lights come on. Time for Coke, a smoke, and a joke! They play ads, people file out, leaving behind coats and scarves for 10 minutes, then the movie picks up exactly where it left off. When I mentioned it to friends here, they said it was a carryover from the days when films were on reels, and they just continued to have the pause, as a boost for the snack bar.

Next frontier will be the video store. We have no DVD player so it's off-limits for the time being, but there are some exciting prospects there!

1 comment:

The Prima said...

Hi E, this is PLo. Sweet blog! I enjoy the day-in-the-life-of style some of your posts are written in, especially since us mainland folk don't experience these little Icelandic details. If you're on IM drop me a note. I'll forward my IM names to J.