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The Seagull's Laughter

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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(Mar 01, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

It is 1953, and Freya, who had gone to America as an officer’s bride, has returned home to begin a new life. She moves into a small house of distant relatives in a quiet fishing village within Iceland. But unlike the drab, plump girl who went abroad, Freya, now in her twenties, is a stunningly beautiful woman. With her long chestnut brown hair, slender figure, and chic American fashions, she is somewhat of a mystery to the women of the household, including the inquisitive eleven-year-old Agga, and especially to the men of the community. But as Agga soon notices, strange things have been happening since Freya’s arrival. Women are asserting their independence and men are mysteriously keeling over. Is Freya a murderess? A goddess of love? These are questions young Agga would very much like to have answered.


An Icelandic film set in the 1950s, The Seagull's Laughter supports the dramatic truism that there are only really two tales to tell-- the tale of a long journey, or one in which a stranger comes to town. This charming and funny film falls into the latter category. The stranger is Freya (Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir), an Icelandic diva who returns from America after her serviceman husband dies, only to immediately stun her household of relatives into awed admiration as she vamps with her impressive wardrobe and charms the town's men. Her actions are observed by the women of the house, including the keen-eyed young girl Agga (Ugla Egilsdóttir), who comes to suspect Freya of murder. There's not much suspense in the chicanery that ensues, with the film rooted in these women's sisterhood of willfulness rather than the who-done-it mechanics of a standard-issue thriller. At its best, the film interlocks with greater Icelandic literary and dramatic traditions, the sagas with their strong-willed female protagonists and the fortitude of characters from the works of Nobel laureate Haldor Laxness. The cinematography is a step up from recent Icelandic films like Noi and 101 Reykjavik, with otherworldly blue twilight and gnarled geography suggesting Middle Earth more than Middle-Atlantic. The Seagull's Laughter is a comedy about cold-blooded murder that naturally leaves one feeling pleasantly warm. --Ryan Boudinot

Special Features

  • Five deleted scenes
  • Making of featurette
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Television ads
  • Essay by director Agust Gudmundsson

Product Details

  • Actors: Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir, Ugla Egilsdóttir, Heino Ferch, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Kristbjörg Kjeld
  • Directors: Ágúst Guðmundsson
  • Writers: Ágúst Guðmundsson, Kristin Marja Baldursdóttir
  • Producers: Andy Paterson, Helgi Toftegard, Kristín Atladóttir, Raphael Socha
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Icelandic (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Homevision
  • DVD Release Date: March 1, 2005
  • Run Time: 102 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007989RU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,279 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Seagull's Laughter" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Other places provide good descriptions of this movie; I'll just mention how it made me feel, which is lighthearted and happy.

These are characters you'll never forget from a world that no longer exists in land that is timeless. The story is full of warmth, humor, paradox, and intrigue.

The protaganist, Freya, is beautiful, cunning and principled;is she a witch or a saint? You're never really sure. Agga, her 11-year old foil, tracks her every move and often directs the action; she's a clever and wise 11-year old who's also a kid's kid, given to spontaneous cartwheels and pre-adolescent sulks. Together, the two set an entire town on it's ear and nothing is ever the same.

This movie is atmospheric and attentive to detail, from down-covered beds to the crunch of the snow to hanging fish and fresh-brewed coffee. All create a distinctive sense of time and place. And the magnificent, Icelandic light and austere terrain is breathtakingly beautiful.

A lot of the story is charming/funny, even quizzical, like the women's subdued reactions to catastrophic or unexpected news, or the grandfather's blythe acceptance of the wacky antics of his estrogen-laden household. Whether just Nordic temperament or great story telling, I'm not sure, but whatever it is, it's great fun. Imagine Alan Ball collabroating with Frank Capra after consulting with Ocsar Wilde, and you've got it. Highly recommended.
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Format: DVD
This is an intriguing, deadpan black comedy of women deciding that men often are boors, unreliable and untrustworthy, and while at times nice play things, they always need to be kept in check.

It's 1952, and after seven years in America Freya (Margret Vihjalmsdottir) has returned a widow to her small Icelandic fishing village. What happened to the officer she married? It's not quite clear. She's slim, sexual, with trunks of clothes. She's welcomed into the home of her relatives, essentially a house of women whose male head is often away at sea on his fishing trawler. His wife, an elderly, pleasant and straightforward woman, is really the boss, and in the house with her lives her sister-in-law, her two daughters and her granddaughter whose parents died. It's a respectable working class home in a village that is socially divided and proper. Freya, however, is not about to settle for the traditional female status quo. And her 11 year old cousin, Agga (Ugla Egilsdottir), is torn between disliking her intensely and being intrigued with her.

Freya is a liberated woman before female liberation was thought of much. She is aware of her sexual power and she's not going to settle for second best. She has a way of strengthening the resolve of the other women around her. And she seems prepared to take drastic action when called upon. The wife-beating drunkard who is the husband of her best friend dies in a mysterious fire. The man she marries who turns out to be tied to his mother's apron strings (and a drunk and adulterer to boot) winds up at the foot of a flight of stairs, dead. At first it's not clear how many of the women may have helped him on his way. And through all of this Agga is observing, and sometimes interfering.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
A black comedy set in the 1950s about Freya, a woman who returns to Iceland after spending several years in America. An air of mystery pervades her. In the eyes of her young cousin Agga, she is an evil woman, a murderess on the run and one who will kill again. But this is not a mystery, a whodunnit or a thriller. It explores the role of Icelandic women in the 50s, that strange time after the war when women who had gone out to work when their menfolk were away, again find themselves back in their traditional roles as housewives.

The film is beautifully shot and evokes a strange, little seen landscape of permanent ice and barren black rock. The landscape is sere, almost devoid of color, which makes Freya's vibrant red, green and blue fashion statements stand out in truly stark contrast.

The film was apparently released with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (very wide) but this DVD from HVE (Home Vision Entertainment), affiliated to Criterion, is an open-matte version at 1.85:1 letterboxed into a 16:9 anamorphic widscreen. Very strange. There is no statement to say that this is a director-approved release although the director, Agust Gudmundsson, did write the introductory essay in the accompanying leaflet. Comparing the 1.85:1 main feature to the 2.35:1 versions of the deleted scenes and various trailers, I personally found the 1.85:1 picture composition more satisfying. But this was obviously not the theatrical release version so I'm quite confused.

The film is in Icelandic, a little heard language, and the DVD comes with optional English subtitles.

Despite the questionable choice of aspect ratio on this DVD, it is still a beautiful transfer of a lovely film and well worth buying.
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Format: DVD
Good flick, but not for everyone. No spoilers here, but I want to warn people that this is a dark movie. Yes, it's sort of a comedy, but a distinctly dark one. There is an abundance of irony, but not many laugh-out-loud moments. Interestingly, the most sympathetic characters are three oldest: two older women who work in a fishery and the husband of one of them, an old fisherman with strong socialist leanings. Class distinctions and snobbery of the Iceland of the early 1950s are an important undercurrent. Freyja, the main character, is an intense and headstrong seductress with a number of admirable qualities. But, and that's a crucial but, those are not the only qualities she possesses. It helps to know that Freyja is the name of a Norse goddess who is often associated with lust as well as battle and death. Those with some knowledge of Icelandic lore would realize the significance of Freyja's nightly walks. Not knowing this, however, probably does not detract too much from the movie. I better leave it at that, so as not to reveal too much.
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