Morgunblaðið 8th May 1973

Will television film be made from story?


Englishmen’s eyes are focused mainly in two directions – to the south and to the north. I’ve always been a man of the North, and perhaps that’s why I was chosen to write the script for the movie Running Blind.

These words were spoken by the British writer Ian Rodger, who stayed here for a week to study Iceland and Icelandic National song before he returns to write the film script for the movie, which he has been appointed to handle.

The movie of Running Blind will be filmed in this country – probably in the summer of 1974, it is adapted from an eponymous novel by Desmond Bagley known in the Icelandic translation under the title Out into the unknown. The book describes a spectacular life and death car chase between a Scottish secret service man and Russian spies over the highlands – from Akureyri to Reykjavik. The author of the book and a film producer are due to visit this country in search of suitable locations for the filming.

Whilst Running Blind is the first film script by Ian Rodger, he can hardly be considered a newcomer. He began his career as a journalist –

We drank coffee together daily – Magnus Magnusson and I, even though we worked for different newspapers and were bitter opponents in news gathering.

– but after years of routine journalism he decided to make an old dream come true and become a writer. He left for and lived in Stockholm, where he stayed for a time. The result was four novels – “all with a Swedish background” as he puts it. Then he returned to England and began to write for radio, writing 15 radio plays.

It was a nature extension of the process that Rodger should want to write for television following his success with novels and radio plays, and he has been successful in recent years. Viewers in this country have seen one of his plays – Sweet England’s Pride – the sixth and final play in a video series about Queen Elizabeth.

At this time, one can say that I have experience of writing two things for the television”. Rodger says,  “First to be noted is that I have recently completed a television script about Roald Amundsen’s journey to the South Pole for a new BBC television programme, known as ‘What the explorers did’.

The television movie about Amundsen is a visual documentary, which will attempt to recreate this famous explorer in words and pictures. Rodger says he is guided by the accounts in the diaries of two people – Amundsen himself and his partner, sometimes describing conflicts that occurred between Amundsen and his companions. It should be noted that Rodger reads the Nordic languages, and understand them, but also speaks excellence “svenglish”, as he puts it, or Swedish with English pronunciation. The film about Amundsen’s journey will be partly filmed in Finse in Norway next year, but there has also has been some talk that Gisli Gestsson the filmmaker will go to Greenland where he will film the polar landscape for the television documentary. Then Rodger mentioned that he has recently finished writing a television drama for the BBC’s programme on the Peasants revolt in England anno 1381.

Ian Rodger spoke well of his stay in Iceland

Because I’m a lifelong scandophile and have made a couple of trips to Iceland. I have visited all of the Nordic world except the Faroe Islands.

As an example of his Nordic admiration he baptised his eldest daughter Freyja, in addition it has always been his ambition to write a sequel to a Saga for television. I told him that he was not alone and he said that he would probably have to be quick then.

Why has he now turned to film?

I’ve often let the words fall into conversation with my counterparts, the British writer has never in history have as many options of expression as right now. Many opportunities are open – novels, stage, television and films. And I’ve never been so minded I want to tie myself to something specific – I want to try everything. And if I start now to negotiate film scripts it does not mean I’m going to sit tight on other projects, no, I’ve just opened a portal and now I can do whatever I wish each time.

Rodger also said that it is far from that he has completely disappeared from the literary fiction –

I’ve been thinking a lot about history in my mind for a long time, but somehow I never get time to make anything of it – however it will happen, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Rodger admits that there is much difference between writing for television and writing for film – these two things are more different than they appear at first glance.

Television and film have trodden similar paths, but now I think people have become aware of just how different these two media are in reality.

There are some restrictions to the small screens of television  – it is, for example, almost impossible to use long shots in television shooting. Therefore, a television camera generally films one thing, one event, which is aimed to draw attention to it, directing the viewers attention completely into the scene.

The advantage of the film is that it consists of depth and dimension.

Rodger also says,

It can show us the man within the landscape thus becoming almost more impressive than the actual one. In a good film the viewer is immersed in it – participating in what is going on. It is this that separates film and television.

Let us deal with Running Blind. Rodger spoke about what he had been working on today, travelling from Reykjavik to Akureyri, where it was a sunny day, and he said he was given an insight into the landscape of Iceland, which holds one of the main roles in the story and presumably the movie too.

Gisli Gestsson, filmmaker, was with me the whole time, as it is absolutely necessary for the script-writer to enjoy the experience of other people with trained image perception rather than just myself. Hence my visit here, so I have the benefit of experience when I start writing.

Before that, Rodger says, he will encounter a variety of difficulties, when he begins to transfer the story into a movie.

Turning a novel into a film script requires a little more effort. In the first case, one can let his imagination rule, but when one writes a film script one must take into account the various aspects and limitations of the film. But I guess I will not only bring the Icelandic landscape into the movie script, but also the people – showing the contrasts within Iceland, here and beyond the outskirts of town. While the film will be basically a ‘Thriller’ it will be naturally suited that unique environment, says Rodger.

Is the preparation for the film almost completed?

To the best of my knowledge I am to write the film script and the filming will take place here” Rodger said. “The role of the director has not been determined and I don’t know who will star in the film, because it has not been decided. Running Blind will be in widescreen colour, and I think I can give the promise of exciting scenarios of car chases through the highlands, undeniably there will be the possibility of such. And I think we can be sure that the actors will not be of the inferior kind, because they are not planning to make a second-class picture (B picture) of this story.


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1. Morgunblaðið (1973). ‘Verður gerð sjónvarpsmynd eftir Njálssögu?’ (8th May 1973 p. 12) © / Árvakur hf.