We reach the end of the world in Iceland with Mylissa Fitzsimmons ‘Everything In The End’

Director Mylissa Fitzsimmons has been keeping busy over the past year as she tours her beautiful movie ‘Everything In The End’, set in Iceland.

Nordic Watchlist got to speak to the director, and one of the stars featured in the movie, Bergdís Júlía Jóhannsdóttir.

NW: When did you first discover Iceland and what inspired you with this concept for the film?

MYLISSA: My kids convinced me to travel to Iceland in 2016 for Summer break. We travelled around for 2 weeks and by the end, it was the first time ever that no one actually wanted to go home. It’s an incredibly calming place and you just always want to be outside. Everyone we met just made us feel so welcomed and the kindness and curiosity really affected me and my family. We fell in love with Iceland immediately.

It’s an incredibly calming place and you just always want to be outside.

As a filmmaker and photographer, I could not stop obsessing about the light. I knew I wanted to film something there but had no idea when or what it would be.  I kept making excuses to do quick trips there whenever we would fly back to London.

In 2018 I was invited to be part of the  Reykjavik Film Festival Talent Lab and jumped at that opportunity to go and be part of the filmmaking community there. I met some pretty amazing filmmakers from all over the world and it was there that I had made the goal to shoot a film there within 2 years no matter what.

drone shot of a vehicle driving on long highway
It is a bit hard not to fall in love with Iceland when travelling there! (Photo Credit: S Migaj on Pexels.com)

I didn’t know how it would happen or what that would be still but I just knew that it was going to happen. I returned to Los Angeles and pretty much sat down and started writing out ideas, none were really working for me.

Eventually, the question of where would I like to be stranded if it was the end of the world and why turned into the idea for a film.  I never wanted to make an end of world dystopian type film though. So I really focused on the “ why”  of the film. Why was our character there?

Eventually, the question of where would I like to be stranded if it was the end of the world and why turned into the idea for a film.

The how he got stranded was never going to be the main story because for me the most interesting part was always the “ why”.  I want to make films about emotions and how as humans we are scared of feelings. How we need people to help us through our processing of vulnerability and pain.

That is really what this film is about, human connections and complex emotions.  

Where would you like to be stranded if the end of the world was coming?

After the script was done it was incredibly fast how quickly we were able to get the film together in 3 months. It was literally to the date, 1 year later from being at the talent lab making the goal to do a film there, too landing in Iceland to shoot this film in Oct 2019.

We got home 10 days later from shooting and we immediately went into the [Christmas] Holidays and then as the new year started we began our post-production and then…a Global Pandemic and the world locked down.  

The film took on a whole new meaning for all of us involved in it. Here we were editing a film about the world dying, people lonely in isolation, and how in the end we all need human connections to process all the grief and at the same time in real life the world was isolating, people were dying and we all needed each other to get through it.

Everything about the editing of this film suddenly turned dark. I think because of what was happening in real life we channelled something into the film that turned out to be something more than one might have expected. We get a lot of people telling us that even though it was a film about death, they left the film really feeling hopeful. That makes all of us involved feel very grateful that we were able to give them that feeling.

We get a lot of people telling us that even though it was a film about death, they left the film really feeling hopeful.

NW: When did you first discover Iceland and what inspired you with this concept for the film?

MYLISSA: Our first two days we shot in and around The Golden Circle. The reason for this was because Paulo, our character was supposed to be doing all the things that tourists do. So that area covered all the spots that most people would go to when they first travel to Iceland but also introduce us to the beauty of Iceland.

After that, we headed Northwest about 3 hours outside of Reykjavik to Hellnar, a small little fishing village near the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. 

We needed the area to feel isolated for the benefit of the story but also it needed to have the few locations nearby that we used in the film. We really lucked out because the 2 locations we needed, a cafe and a small church were within walking distance of our lodging where we all lived together for 9 days while we shot this film.

The owners of Fjöruhúsið café were the loveliest of people. We made sure to film during their closed hours and they generously came in and made sure there were pastries and tea for us. We even ended up using one of the cafe owners in the film. Also, they had probably the best carrot cake I have ever had in my life. I still think about it.  

We also shot a scene at the N1 Hellissandur gas station and the people there were so generous with the space and letting us take over for a few hours and then in the end they wouldn’t let us pay them so we tried to buy up as much food and candy as we could carry out.

It really proved to me that shooting in Iceland was the right choice. It’s really why I choose Iceland, I needed a place that really showed how the kindness of strangers can really affect a person’s life. Icelanders really came out and showed their support and kindness to us while we were shooting, it was really life-affirming.

NW: Bergdis, tell us about your role in Everything in the End

BERGDIS: I play Theódóra who is a single mother living with her son and wants nothing more than to protect him from the pain and does anything to bring joy and happiness to their home. She puts his happiness above her own and whilst still grieving her husband she has forgotten to really connect with other people.

She is a bit isolated and living day by day focusing on creating something special and fantastic for her son so he is not harmed by the reality outside of their house. Their house somehow in my head became this little island that she created for them.

When they get a visitor she can’t say no when she sees how much joy he is bringing to her son but there is also a longing for connection that she feels as she is also just very anxious and sad about what is coming. At a time like that, you want to share your vulnerability and just your whole body in a way. You want to be touched, comforted, and feel connected far beyond the surface.

Icelandic actress Bergdís Júlía Jóhannsdóttir plays Theódóra

But I think it is not only that she needs to feel connected with someone else, she longs to connect again with herself as she has lost that connection, the sense of self while focusing only on her son. I could relate to Theódóra so well and she actually is very close to me in many ways. One being a mother myself, but also from losing my brother to cancer when I was twenty-two and had a long and difficult time of grieving.

I recall this specific need to protect others around me and just make sure everyone was feeling ok and having fun. But after a long time of doing that I collapsed and realized that I needed to connect with myself as well as building a new empathetic and sincere relationship with others. And for me, the whole movie is about that, the importance of the connection between people during difficult times like these. 

NW: There is wonderful chemistry between yourself and Hugo de Sousa – what was it like working with him?

BERGDIS: Hugo is just amazing to work with. He is so focused, open, gentle, playful, giving, and a fantastic listener and that is so important. I remember I was a bit nervous when arriving at our location but Hugo is very down to earth and therefore it was just so easy to connect with him.

He creates a very relaxing atmosphere and it felt so freeing acting with him. I felt I was safe and I could bring any offer and try different things in our scenes and he would always play with it and go along with it. He is very sincere in the way he works and I felt there was a beautiful trust between us.

Mylissa our director is also one of the best in creating a safe space for opening up and becoming vulnerable. We didn’t have a lot of time as they had a super tight schedule to shoot the whole film so I feel so grateful for how wonderful it was to work with Hugo and how easy and natural it felt. 

Everything In The End will continue touring and hits International Film Festivals this autumn – you can follow the movie’s journey here on the film’s website.

Bergdis can be next seen taking to the stage with her theatre company Spindrift Theatre

Interview by Alex Minnis

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