🇮🇸 THE OATH 🇮🇸
The Oath aka Eiðurinn (2016) is an Icelandic feature film. Crime, drama, thriller. Amazon Prime Video U.K. £5.99 to buy £3.49 to rent (at publication). 1 hr 44 min. In Icelandic with embedded English subtitles. 15 Cert U.K.
“A troubled father, working as a doctor, decides to go to extreme measures for saving his daughter from a [the] devastating influence of her boyfriend, a drug dealer.” IMDb
Baltasar Kormákur as Finnur
Hera Hilmar as Anna
Gísli Örn Garðarsson as Óttar
Margrét Bjarnadóttir as Solveig
Auður Aradóttir as Birna
Þorsteinn Bachmann as Ragnar
Ingvar Sigurdsson as Halldór
Þorsteinn Gunnarsson as Gulli
Þórunn Magnea Magnúsdóttir as Kolbrún
Jakob Þór Einarsson as Læknir Önnu
Edda Arnljótsdóttir as Margrét
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Writers: Ólafur Egilsson & Baltasar Kormákur
Cinematographer: Óttar Guðnason
Editor: Sigvald J. Kárason
Music: Hildur Guðnadóttir
Sound Design: Huldar Freyr Arnarson
Make-Up: Ragna Fossberg, Emil Heimir Sverrisson & Áslaug Dröfn Sigurdardóttir
Visual Effects: Dadi Einarsson
Baltasar Kormákur had to do extensive physical training for his role as Finnur who is a triathlete as well as heart surgeon.
Filming Locations: Reykjavik and Lundarreykjadalur, Iceland.
The Oath was the most popular film in Icelandic cinemas in 2016.
Having watched several Baltasar Kormákur productions where he was director and co-writer such as The Deep, Everest, Trapped and Katla I thought I was long overdue to watch a work in which he acted. After all, he started in front of the camera. The Oath leapt out in a list of possibilities as being the best of both worlds, and also one of the most challenging for him, since he is not only in the lead role of Finnur but also directed and co-wrote the story. No mean feat!
“If it is given me to save a life, all thanks.
But it may also be within my power to take a life.
This awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty.
Above all I must not play at God.” The Hippocratic Oath
The Oath starts with this oath and it should be born in mind throughout the rest of the film. It applies to Finnur who is a heart surgeon, the epitome of a cool, calm, controlled (and in control) saviour of lives. As the film progresses we see how decisions he makes lead him to break this oath with devastating consequences. He seems to operate under the assumption that the actions he takes have controllable consequences as if no one else is also operating under any pressures or constraints.
We see repeated scenes of botched open heart surgery and these act as a metaphor for his well-meaning but ultimately awful attempts to “do good”. I found one of these incidents which involved a child particularly upsetting as we have another potential victim of Finnur’s morally dubious actions (not forgetting the child’s parents of course).
The opening scene is of Finnur at the house of his late father and it is made clear that he not only had no real contact with his father but that he hated him. The relationship between sons and daughters to their fathers is a central theme of this film. There is, of course, his relationship with his daughter, Anna, but also the relationship of Óttar to his father. There is one visceral scene in which Óttar tells of his appalling upbringing and the similarities with Finnur’s own. These men actually have a lot in common and but for a twist of fate could have stood in each other’s shoes.
Whilst The Oath can be seen as being in the vein of Taken this is no basic vigilante movie. Each action Finnur takes makes everything more complicated and dangerous for those caught in its wake. And unlike Taken his daughter, Anna, as he is repeatedly being told is an adult, not a child. While it is difficult for parents to see their offspring making unwise decisions, especially when these are combined with excesses of behaviour, the fact is that adults have the right to make their own mistakes and not be controlled or have their lives and loves sabotaged by their parents. This is something Finnur never accepts and which ultimately has disastrous, tragic, unforgivable consequences. It is only at the very end that he does, possibly, really understand that Anna and Óttar were truly in love.
There is one scene that involves Finnur telling Óttar in a cold, emotionless and clinical manner exactly what will happen to him. This is spine chilling. This part of the movie reminded me a little of Misery and be warned, torture is involved. This is a man who has taken the Hippocratic Oath remember!
The performances in this film are really strong. Baltasar Kormákur himself is understated in a role that could so easily lend itself to scenery-chewing. I thought Gísli Örn Garðarsson was truly outstanding as the “bad influence” Óttar giving him a softer and more vulnerable side.
One of the most impressive aspects of Baltasar Kormákur’s creations is the cinematography and The Oath does not disappoint in this respect. Picking out just two aspects of the camerawork I would like to mention the amazing widescreen landscapes and the fast road travel shots. Amazing! As usual, the landscape is used to good effect such as when Finnur is cycling or swimming for his triathlon training.
The music score for this film is just fabulous with its metallic, clanging distortions often reflecting Finnur’s mind and predicament.
I must include a big shout out to the Make-Up Department on this film. The blood and injury effects are superb and the extensive tattooing on Óttar is very impressive indeed.
This is essentially a tragedy and no one escapes the repercussions. The aim of Finnur to keep his daughter safe and sound is ultimately made utterly futile by his actions (only he, she and we, the audience “get” that). We are left with the idea that he has ruined absolutely everything.
This is not a perfect film, there are parts where it is quite difficult for the viewer to fully grasp Finnur’s motivations but paying attention to dialogue and bearing in mind that path along which which we, and the film itself, have travelled these are easier to grasp.
Can I recommend The Oath? If you don’t mind some gritty, potentially upsetting violence and seeing open heart surgery then this film definitely offers something out of the ordinary and I can definitely recommend it.
6 wins and 11 nominations
Edda Awards, Iceland (2017) Supporting Actor of the Year ~ Gísli Örn Garðarsson; Actress of the Year ~ Hera Hillary; Best Music ~ Hildur Guðnadóttir; Best Make-Up ~ Ragna Fossberg, Emil Heimir Sverrisson; Best Visual Effects ~ Dadi Einarsson, Pétur Karlsson
Reviews of other Baltasar Kormákur Prouctions:
The Deep an Icelandic Film by Baltasar Kormákur
Katla an Icelandic show on Netflix ~ a Review
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