The Seagull's Laughter

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Mávahlátur is a novel by Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir, published in 1995 by Mál og menning. It was adapted as an Icelandic film in 2001 directed by Ágúst Guðmundsson; the English-language release translates the book's title literally, as The Seagull's Laughter. The film is a close adaptation of the book and was Iceland's submission to the 74th Academy Awards for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but was not accepted as a nominee.[1][2] It stars Ugla Egilsdóttir as Agga, an orphaned pre-teen distrusting of her cousin Freyja, played by Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir, who turns heads on her return from America, no longer the chubby teen that the Icelandic townspeople remember.


The plot of the book is closely followed by the film, so this summary covers both works.

The story is set around the 1950s, not very long after Iceland's independence from Denmark. The arrival of modernity in Iceland, including democracy, feminism, and new technologies and fashions, is an implicit theme throughout the text.

The narrative is presented from the perspective of Agga (played by Ugla Egilsdóttir), who during the three or so years covered by the story goes from being a pre-teen girl to being a young woman. The main agent in the story, however, is Agga's older step-cousin Freyja (played by Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir). Freyja returns to Iceland from America after her American army officer husband died of heart attack two months before. Freyja, who is dressed in American clothing, brought back 7 luggages of clothes with her from America, and amazes her Icelandic family - Agga's grandmother and her aunts Ninna and Dódó - with her clothes, perfumes, and her having a fridge in America. Agga becomes suspicious, suspecting that Freyja is an evil woman or indeed a witch, and should be sent back to America. However, no one believes her.

Regardless of her suspicion, Agga told Dísa (played by Bára Lyngdal Magnúsdóttir) about Freyja's return. Dísa was excited about the news, so she ran to where Freyja is staying to meet her. The family of girls then tried on Freyja's clothes from America, and held a mini fashion show inside their house.

Agga then decided to report her suspicion to the local policeman Magnús (played by Hilmir Snær Guðnason), telling him that Freyja is heartless and evil, and that she is a liar. Magnús did not take Agga seriously, laughed her accusations off, and sent her out of the police station. With no one on her side, Agga began to follow Freyja, hoping to find out more about her. Freyja was found frequently visiting the rocks near the sea, disappearing behind the rocks and only reappearing many hours later. As Agga found the rocks intimidating, she dared not follow Freyja behind the rocks, and therefore no one knows what Freyja does behind the rocks.


Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir as Freyja
Ugla Egilsdóttir as Agga
Heino Ferch as Björn Theodór
Hilmir Snær Guðnason as Magnús
Kristbjörg Kjeld as Amma
Edda Björg Eyjólfsdóttir as Dódó
Bára Lyngdal Magnúsdóttir as Dísa
Eyvindur Erlendsson as Afi
Guðlaug Elísabet Ólafsdóttir as Ninna
Sigurveig Jónsdóttir as Kidda
Diijá Mist Einarsdóttir as Emelía
Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir as Birna
Jónína Ólafsdóttir as Læknisfrúin
Charlotte Bøving as Mette
Benedikt Erlingsson as Hilli
Arnar Jónsson as Syslumaður
Anna Kristín Arngrímsdóttir as Syslumannsfrú
Gunnar Hansson as Unnusti Dódóar
Baldur Trausti Hreinsson as Gummi
Guðmundur Ólafsson as Dr. Enok
Theodór Júlíusson as Þórður Lögga
Sigurður Skúlason as Jói Betu
Gunnar Helgason as Gauji Sígrenjandi
Halldór Magnússon as Tobbi Spritt
Kjartan Ragnarsson as Prestur
Jón Júlíusson as Póstur
Valgeir Guðjónsson as Hijómsveitarstjóri
Magnús Ragnarsson as Rödd Björns Theodórs
Lísa Pálsdóttir as Konur Í Heimsókn

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