Loneliness, Emptiness, and Whale Valley

What’s the precise difference between emptiness and loneliness? 

As we practice physical distancing, which one of the two aforementioned feelings are we experiencing?

Which endures for longer periods than the other?

Emptiness or loneliness?

At the moment, as the humankind of the 21st-century tunnels through a preternatural chapter – whose inclusion in 22nd century’s academics is inevitable unless something in the future overshadows this – we, the humans, share a prevalent feeling, loneliness.

Some miss their marrows,

some pine to be reunited with their physically distant families,

and some agonize over losing their beloved ones who succumbed to the nauseating adversary that’s 0.06 microns in size

Not merely people in one’s life, but a demise transmutes to losing a part of the said’s self.

We are all, indeed, lonely. Perhaps more than ever.

We will emerge through this, unequivocally. Will that be an unhinged emergence, though? I stand irresolute on this facet.

The emptiness, though, will prevail. Emptiness has no allies with the number of people physically existing in one’s proximity. It’s in the mind, to put in one clichéd line.

Whale Valley by Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson is a peek into an empty life, deluded as loneliness. The Icelandic short film leverages the sweeping, and note this, empty landscape to embody the protagonists’ personas. The quaint panorama of the farm in rural Iceland is a reflection of an empty mind. The ever-existing sound of blowing wind further presses this facet. The actuality that the country’s population is 10% of my city’s, only prepends to the existing empathy our newly born quarantine selves have on the film’s characters, siblings Arnar and Ívar.

The first time we see Arnar is with his head in a noose, frantic and suffused with sorrow. We see him from distance, in a blue-colored woolshed, which takes the shape of a portion of a vertically dismembered whale. Having witnessed his elder brother’s willingness to push extremes as a consequence of loneliness, the young Ívar towards home – either in trepidation or to alert his parents – only to be knocked over by the elder one who pardons his brother to not notify their parents, citing they can’t understand.


 Why can’t parents understand?

The dinner table conversations are stiff, impersonal, and specifically frigid in nature, akin to the exterior atmosphere.

When Ívar verbally expresses to his father that Arnar could be sad again, neither expression nor acknowledgment exist.


The choice of words is specific. There is ‘again’, meaning they have been through something similar. Yet, the concern in father is non-existent. Perhaps the father himself has been through a phase as such, and he is here. He made it through and expects his son follow the same. Perhaps. But no two people in the universe are alike, let alone the heedless father and suicidal son. 

Whale Valley is about coming in terms with life by one’s self, realizing what matters and whatnot. It’s about coming-of-age. It could be an accurate representation of isolated life that finds relevance in these times. Made 6 years ago, the story will stand relevant years from now, thanks to some lonely, empty, seldom overlooked lives which hold a negligible proportion in the world that houses some odd 7.7 billion humans.

A good friend once explained the difference between isolation and detachment. While confining one’s physical self to a room, disconnected with the real world stands for isolation, mentally distancing self from people while living amid them, is detachment. If the former invokes loneliness, the latter exemplifies emptiness. The ongoing mental crisis, is a simple reality check.

The pandemic barely hinges those, whose life has no void, but itself is one.

Not-so-fun fact: Arnar is the filmmaker’s middle name.


The Whale Valley is now streaming on MUBI India and Vimeo.

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