Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Gísli Pálsson's "The Man Who Stole Himself"

Gísli Pálsson is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Iceland.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, The Man Who Stole Himself: The Slave Odyssey of Hans Jonathan:
I envisage a full-blown film dramatizing a particular part of the complex journey of Hans Jonathan from bondage to freedom, from St. Croix to Denmark and Iceland: His escape to a small fishing and trading station in Djupivogur in East Iceland, I imagine, would be the focus of the drama, with occasional flashbacks to his childhood in Denmark and St. Croix. The film would be shot in the scenic landscape around the village, the harbor where Hans Jonathan arrived, the trading station where he worked and where he met his future wife (Katrin Antoniusdottir), the valley in the mountains where they got engaged, and the peasant house where they raised a family. The drama would reenact the cultural differences between the worlds of husband and wife, their anxieties regarding Hans Jonathan’s enslavement, the tensions in his work as he tried to negotiate between the demands of the owners of the trading store where he worked and the needs of the poor local peasants he served, the relaxed attitude to “color” in the village, and the intimate bond that developed between the couple.

I would like to see Hans Jonathan played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, known for his role as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave. London-based Icelandic actress Heida Reed (Heida Run Sigurdardottir) who has played in a series of TV productions (including the BBC drama Poldark) might take the role of Hans Jonathan’s wife, Katrin Antoníusdóttir. Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur, who has directed several acclaimed films, would be good as script writer and director, given his knowledge of the Icelandic and Danish contexts.
Learn more about The Man Who Stole Himself at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue