Short of the Week

Smáfuglar (2 Birds)

Two naive lovebirds share a redemptive night in this quiet short from Iceland—NSFW.

A story of innocence lost, and then regained, 2 Birds (Smáfuglar in the film’s native tongue, Icelandic) is perhaps the purest and most earnest 15 minutes of film I have ever experienced.

The cherub-faced Atli Oskar Fjalarsson plays a shy teenager with a crush on an equally shy girl (Hera Hilmarsdóttir). They flirt a little bit in the presence of their other two friends, who are a couple, but everything is unspoken. When the foursome end up at a house party with a much older crowd, the brasher of the boys obtains some ketamine pills and suggests they all take one.

I really don’t want to say any more about the story of the film, except to say that chivalry can take many forms. One of the other SotW reviewers confessed that he choked up just recounting the plot to a co-worker. It’s rare to be able to evoke such pure emotions in film, but to do it in 15 minutes is a wonder. With very little in the way of dialogue, 2 Birds manages to convey the subtle emotions and confusion of its two leads through very strong performances from the actors, as well as some great mood-evoking cinematography. The contrast between the hazy sunlight of the afternoon and the very different haze of the party is nicely brought full circle by the film’s very moving ending.

Director Rúnarsson has often mentioned that he likes to tell stories about characters who are at a crossroads in life, and in this tender coming-of-age story, his gifts as a filmmaker are already in full evidence. If you like this, I’d highly recommend seeking out his feature debut Volcano (2011) as well as his other shorts (The Last Farm and Anna) if you can track them down.

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James lives in Toronto and blogs about film at Toronto Screen Shots. His interest in short film led him to establish the quarterly screening series Shorts That Are Not Pants. Follow him on Twitter: @TOscreenshots and @shortsnotpants.
  • http://www.facebook.com/jconnorsimpson Connor Simpson

    This is absolutely beautiful. I’m a big fan of coming-of-age stories, and this one is truly powerful and unique. Bravo!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jconnorsimpson Connor Simpson

    This is absolutely beautiful. I’m a big fan of coming-of-age stories, and this one is truly powerful and unique. Bravo!

  • http://www.torontoscreenshots.com James McNally

    Connor, this film is quite possibly the reason I became interested in shorts in the first place. Such a spare storyline but every glance between the characters is significant. Thanks for your feedback!

  • Anna

     Ahh thank you so much for sharing this! I can’t put it into
    (english) words how much I loved it. It’s beautiful, it’s honest… I loved
    that even choosing this topic it’s not judging at all.. (I was expecting it to
    be some lecture about how bad it is if you take drugs.) I loved how unexpected
    it was until the very end. It left me cry like a baby, really it’s the best
    short film of all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/evadecre Eva De Crescenzo

    Simply wonderful.

  • Anonymous

    Beautifull. All the best from Caracas, Venezuela. Great pick Mr McNally. I’ll wait for the next one!

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.burity.3 Daniel Burity

    Hey James, I watched your short years ago in a Short Film Festival in Brazil. Now I live in NY and work with cinema as well. I watched again and still is one of the best fiction shorts I’ve ever seen. Amazing work man!

  • Disgusted By It

    Gang rape and child pornography on screen. This short should be banned.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondhi Jason Sondhi

    Yes, because it obviously celebrates both of those.

  • Anonymous

    We should also ban Schindler’s List since it wants us to kill six million Jews.

    This is one of the most beautiful short films I’ve ever seen. I’m so sad you can’t see it.