Small Mall (Mjoddin) was a made for TV documentary about employees at a run down shopping mall in the suburbs of Reykjavik, the film follows five central characters as they prepare the mall for Christmas. The film got favourable reviews in the Icelandic press and although not widely seen outside of Iceland is considered by many to be Robert's best film do date.
The film was selected for screening at The Toronto International Film Festival, The Miami International Film Festival and was broadcast on Comcast VOD services in North America.
SMALL MALL - Real to Reel section of The Toronto International Film Festival.
Director Róbert Douglas shot Small Mall over a period of several months, following the lives of a group of employees at a once-substantial mall that has been eclipsed by bigger, spiffier buildings. The film pushes the boundaries of what you might consider "documentary."
The employees at the mall all dream of getting jobs at the classier shopping centres down the road. They're a decidedly eccentric group. The mall's assistant manager, an aspiring actor-model, is desperately looking for his big break and he will go to any lengths to get out. Another figure is a working-class lout who has just been promoted to cashier, but bemoans his treatment at the hands of the women shoppers (mostly because they rebuff his advances). The woman who runs the pet store is also an amateur body builder and, allegedly, the most tattooed woman in Iceland. A lonely security guard nearing retirement is simply thrilled to talk to anyone. Meanwhile, the manager of one of the biggest stores - the only one who doesn't seem desperate to leave - witnesses his coworkers' shenanigans with wry amusement, especially when the assistant manager decides that appearing in Douglas's film isn't enough for him; he needs more exposure and decides to get it by putting himself on the cover of the grocery store's discount flyer.
Driven by a deadpan comic sense and a well-developed appetite for the absurd, Douglas is both bemused by, and affectionate toward, his subjects - especially their loopiest ideas and ambitions. All of them seem strangely bewitched, a contention supported by the shambling, deceptively casual rhythm of the film.
Best known internationally for The Icelandic Dream - which followed a failed entrepreneur who suddenly struck it big when he realized that the Bulgarian cigarettes he was smuggling actually contained an herb Icelanders consider to have medicinal properties - Douglas has a facility for finding and developing characters trapped by their own wonky obsessions. Like him, we're most sympathetic to his subjects when they're at their most eccentric.
Steve Gravestock, The Toronto International Film Festival 2004.