From Hetty To Nancy
1997, 16mm, 44 minutes

Travel journal entries weave a narrative that counterpoises the austere Icelandic ‘frontier' landscape with the banalities of travel circumstances.

The stoic beauty the Icelandic landscape forms a backdrop for a series of witty and caustic letters written at the turn of the century by a woman named Hetty as she treks with her companion Masie, four school girls and their school marm. The film juxtaposes Hetty's ironic cataloguing of the petty social interactions of her companions as they endure discomfort and boredom with historic accounts of catastrophes that reveal the Icelandic people subject to the awesome forces of nature.

Athens Int’l Film/Video Fest: Best Experimental film, 1998

Key Credits
Director, Producer, Camera, Edit, Sound Design: Deborah Stratman
Associate Producer: Grete Dalum
Additional Sound Recording: Melinda Fries, Juris Poskus, James Benning
Sound Mix: Randy Wilson

Voices and Appearances by
Nancy Mitchnick: Hetty's voice
Sven Reiermann: Danish voice
Hrafnhildur Jónasdóttir: Icelandic voice
Thorgerther Jóna Gudmundsdóttir: Girl on beach
Gudmundur Hallgrímsson: Sheep Shaver

Music By
Alfred Schnittke
from: "In Memorium", "String Quartet No. 2", "String Quartet No. 3", "Viola Concerto" & "Septet"

Texts By
Jón Thorláksson, 1727
Eggert Ólafsson & Bjarni Pálsson, 1752 – 1757
William Jackson Hooker, 1809
Louis MacNiece, 1932

"From Hetty to Nancy is a moving landscape film shot entirely in Iceland. Text is added to the wild, almost surreal vistas: rolling titles tell stories from Iceland's history, a voice reads letters written by an English tourist, Hetty, to her friend as she travels about Iceland with a group of schoolgirls. The film's primary irony stems from Hetty's rather bored attitude: we see spectacular multicolored views of mountains and fields and sky and wildly beautiful rock, yet she complains that the land is mostly 'stones'. A single movement within Stratman's static images - the wake of a seal in still water, the movement of a lone wind sock beside a primitive airstrip - often makes them dynamic. The land seems complexly alive; the texts are layered with meaning, including a hint of lesbianism in Hetty's detailed descriptions of her charges' clothing and jewelry. The diverse stories of the text, most of which never intersect, remind us how differently the land can be viewed across cultures."
- Fred Camper, The Chicago Reader

Return to Film Work