‘Quake’: An insight into family dysfunction

Anita Briem as Saga, a woman discovering more about her past as she tries to reconstruct her memorie
Anita Briem as Saga, who discovers more about her past as she tries to reconstruct her memories after a devastating seizure.

Quake (Skjálfti)
Written and directed by Tinna Hrafnsdóttir
Starring Anita Briem, Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir, Tinna Hrafnsdóttir, Edda Björgvinsdóttir
In Icelandic with English subtitles
Showing nationally as part of the Scandinavian Film Festival

The quake referred to in this film’s title is superficially a grand mal epileptic seizure that besets the main character, Saga, as she walks her child through a park. It affects parts of her memory, however, there are greater earthquakes to come.

As her loving family move into support mode, it becomes apparent that their care comes at a cost. They seek to control her and infantilise her.

The story unravels a tight web of interconnected manipulations and concealed motives. As Saga tries to reconstruct her life, long-repressed and disturbing memories from her childhood start to surface.

Writer/director and key supporting actor, Tinna Hrafnsdóttir, masterfully builds the tension as more eerie fragments of past events intrude into Saga’s mind. But what is the problem, is Saga cracking up or remembering real events, or both?

The film demonstrates insight into family dysfunction and violence and how individual members come to bear the guilt of collective failures.

In particular, it illustrates how women come to shoulder the cost of men’s emotional cowardice.

This is a rare gem of a film, one that should be seen with a good friend. And be sure to book in time afterwards to talk it through.