Desert Island DVDs – Marsali Taylor


Shetland based author selects five European screen classics.

Marsali Taylor’s four Shetland-set detective novels starring liveaboard sailor Cass Lynch have gained enthusiastic reviews both here and abroad, with the Shetland setting and characters getting particular praise. A former English and Drama teacher, she’s also published plays in Shetland’s distinctive dialect as well as books on Shetland’s history. She’s a keen sailor, and an active member of her local drama group. She writes a monthly column in the e-zine Mystery People and is a regular contributor to Mystery Readers She will be appearing at this year’s Iceland Noir literary festival.


Cave of Forgotten Dreams

‘This astonishing film is one I could watch over and over. It takes us inside the Chauvet Cave in France, which contains paintings from over thirty thousand years ago: cave lions, mammoths, wild horses, aurochs. The floor is littered with the skulls of cave bears, now calcified in glittering white stone, and the paintings themselves are fresh as Picasso studies. An awe-inspiring experience.’


The Third Man

‘This film is English, but was mostly shot in a nightmarish post-war Vienna, full of piles of rubble and twisted staircases. Joseph Cotten is perfect as naive Holly Martins, looking for his friend Harry (Orson Welles) and gradually having his illusions kicked away. The themes of trust and betrayal, of having to choose between loyalties, are always fresh, and the filming shows black and white at its most atmospheric.’


Russian Ark

‘A cinematic tour-de-force, this film was shot all in one take, and follows an un-named narrator through the Winter Palace of the Hermitage Museum. We see various periods of history, but the real star is the cameraman, with the film swooping down staircases, around corners, moving from close-up to wide shot. The ball scene at the end is amazing – the colour, the costumes, the way the camera twirls round the participants. Don’t worry about not understanding all of it – just sit back and feast your eyes.’



‘This wonderful sort-of comedy is a Blair Witch style ‘found footage’ story of four Norwegian teenagers who try to follow what they think is a bear-poacher, and find he’s an official Government troll cover-up man. The performances are great, the dead-pan humour is wonderful (for example, the dialogue when the wrong sort of dead bear is brought in to explain the troll cattle-kills), and the special effects are fun. I don’t watch scary stuff, but I loved this one.’


Gregory’s Girl

‘I had to include a Scottish film while we’re still Europeans. This romantic comedy’s set in a Glasgow suburb, and follows shy, lanky Gregory (the role John Gordon Sinclair has never shaken off) as he tries to win the girl of his dreams – football-mad Dorothy (Dee Hepburn). The running gags, like Steve’s cake-selling empire, or the lost penguin, or Andy’s chat-up attempts, are manic and the end set-piece, with a bemused Gregory being handed from girl to girl, is a delight. Wasted on anyone still close to their teens and a joyous memory-jogger of more innocent days for us older folk.’

Thanks to Marsali Taylor and Iceland Noir.

Iceland Noir booking details

Marsali Taylor is published by Accent Press


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