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Modernity and the moving image: Halldór Laxness and the writing of ‘The American Film in 1928’

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The article discusses Icelandic author and Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness’s (1902–98) essay ‘Kvikmyndin ameríska 1928’/‘The American Film in 1928’, which was written during Laxness’s stay in Hollywood in the late 1920s. The development of the essay from a 1927 draft to its 1929 publication in the essay collection Alþy´ðubókin/‘The Commoner’s Book’ is traced, and the contours of its extensive ideological critique are examined. The article contextualizes Laxness’s emphasis on the economic realities of film production and discusses his interest in cinema in conjunction with his allegiance to societal modernization and his engagement with modernism in the arts. Laxness’s analysis of various films and filmmakers is addressed in relation to what for him constituted the proper deployment of the medium. Finally, Laxness’s subsequent career as it relates to his continuing engagement with cinema is briefly addressed.

Keywords: Halldór Laxness; Hollywood and ideology; culture industry; modernity; studio system; writers and film

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Publication date: June 17, 2011

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  • The Journal of Scandinavian Cinema is a new scholarly journal devoted to film in the Scandinavian countries. It aims to become the prime site for excellent research and engaging discussions on cinema in Scandinavia, both within the national context of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and as a region existing in a globalized world.
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