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Eurovision Movie: 5 Iceland References You Might Have Missed

|August 5, 2020
Sofie is a free-spirited journalist from Kentucky who lives a nomadic lifestyle, and spends much of her free time in airports on layovers. Hobbies include dancing and sipping bourbon.

Will Ferrell's Eurovision film has generated significant buzz among Icelanders. After watching, it's easy to see why. 'Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga' tells the story of aspiring vocal duo Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdóttir (Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams), who land the opportunity to represent Iceland in the Eurovision Song Contest.


This parody ode to the country is packed with hilarious cultural references that only locals and true Iceland fans will appreciate. So if you aren't a Nordic expert, here are the top 5 running gags and references that probably went right over your head. 

1. “She’s probably not my sister.”

Most people probably caught the Erickssong pun, but this wasn’t the only play on Icelandic last names. If you aren't familiar with Nordic culture, Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdóttir might sound like realistic Icelandic names. But the truth is, they were mostly created to be a silly double entendre for the running joke that Lars and Sigrit might be brother and sister. 

Rachel Mcadams singing in Eurovision song contest

Rachel Mcadams starring at Eurovision movie

The Eurovision writers played on the patronymic naming system where last names are derived from the father’s first name. At the end of the surname Icelanders add either -son (son) for boys, or -dóttir (daughter) for girls. So in this case, we have Erik's son and Erik's daughter. But as Lars says, “she’s probably not my sister.” 

Icelanders take their names very seriously and can only choose a name for their child from the pre-approved list of the Icelandic Naming Committee. Many people pointed out that neither Sigrit or Erik are approved Icelandic names! To learn more check our Icelandic names blog here.

2. “I never understood why half this country still believes in elves…”

The elves were more than a wacky plot line in this film. Over half of Iceland still believes that elves could be real. 

That's right. A 2007 study by the University of Iceland found an estimated 62% of Icelanders believe in, or are open to, the existence of elves. However, Icelandic elf folklore is probably very different from what you imagine. Referred to as huldufólk (or hidden people) they live in rocks or lava fields (not cute houses) and have a very vengeful nature. So when Sigrit saw "the elves went too far," this was definitely no surprise. If you want to read more about the origin of the huldufólk, read our blog about these mythical creatures here.

3. “Play Ja Ja Ding Dong!”

Since the movie release, Ja Ja Ding Dong has become an infectious crowd favorite in Iceland (there is even a bar bearing the same name). According to producer Savan Kotech, songwriters Gustaf Holter and Christian Persson were inspired by Dutch folk songs and wanted to create something catchy. Mission accomplished! If you listen to the lyrics the song is one suggestive innuendo, which is right in the spirit of traditional Icelandic songs. Many old folk songs make vague references to this topic.  

 

Jaja Ding Dong Song | Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

 

Some Icelandic viewers also noticed that the repetitive lyrics sound similar to past Eurovision songs, such as Boom Bang-a-Bang (UK) by Lulu that won in 1969. Three songs from the film made the Icelandic top singles list: “Húsavík – My Hometown” at sixth place, “Ja Ja Ding Dong “ at eleventh place and “Double Trouble” at thirty-six. Sorry to disappoint, but there is no such thing as the  Speorg note. This concept was created just for the movie.

4. “Hosting will bankrupt the whole country.”

Fire Saga faces many challenges on their Eurovision journey, none more fierce than character Victor Karlosson. Played by Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt, the banker explains that Iceland can't win the contest because it would bankrupt the whole country. Although Iceland has yet to win the Eurovision Song Contest, there have been genuine concerns over what would happen if the country were to host

Territory of Iceland on the map

The comparison of Iceland' size

The island has a land mass of 103,000 km². That’s 1.2 times smaller than New York and much of it is pristine wilderness. Someone then responds they could host it in Keflavík, a town 45 minutes outside of Reykjavík, which has a population of about 15,000. This is a reference to the actual suggestion that if Iceland did have to host, it would have to be held in an aircraft hangar at the US army base that was once near Keflavík. Keflavík is on the Reykjanes peninsula and known for its volcanic landscapes and geothermal hot springs. 

5.Húsavik (My Hometown), "Where the whales can live 'cause they're gentle people."

Hometown pride was at the heart of the film, so naturally, the filmmakers chose to shoot some scenes in Húsavik, Iceland. About a six-hour drive from Reykjavík, Húsavík is a charming fishing village famed for its whale watching. Most scenes were shot in Húsavík Harbor, while the boat scenes between Ferrell and his onscreen father Pierce Brosnan took place in Skjálfandi Bay

Running Ferrell in Husavik - Eurovision song contest

Eurovision movie scene in Husavik, Iceland

Scene from Eurovision movie with Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams

Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams starring in Eurovision movie

The town's mayor, Kristján pór Magnússon, and 2,500 inhabitants welcomed the film crew with open arms, even joining in as movie extras! Since production wrapped and the movie released, locals have found ways to pay homage to the film, including opening the Jaja Ding Dong-bar in the Cape Hotel. Learn more about Húsavik and how to visit here!

DON’T KNOW WHAT EUROVISION IS?

If you aren’t familiar with Eurovision, it is the longest-running annual international television contest. For the competition, each country submits an original song that is to be performed on live television and radio.

The Eurovision Song Contest awards statue. Photograph by Thomas Hanses

To determine a winner each country must vote for the other countries’ songs. While most participants are European, at least 50 countries have been eligible to compete as of 2019.

Some people think the plot might play with the fact Iceland has never won the first place title but little has been revealed.

Since Iceland’s debut in 1986, the island has participated in 33 Eurovision competitions but has never won. However, we should note the country has come in second place twice: in 1999, with Selma’s “All Out of Luck” and in 2009 with Yohanna’s “Is It True?”.

 

Eurovision 1999 - Iceland - Selma - All out of luck

 

That’s a wrap! Now you can rewatch the movie and laugh along like a true Icelander.

 

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: The Story Of Fire Saga | Official Trailer | Netflix

 

If this movie for you is not enough, read our Ultimate Guide to Movies Shot in Iceland for cinema trivia! 

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