The Deep director will tackle Halldór Laxness’ novel about poor Icelandic farmers in the early 20th century.

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur, whose latest local feature The Deep (Djúpið) was released domestically last week (Sept 21), will film Icelandic Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness’ 1934-1935 epic novel, Independent People (Sjálfstætt fólk).

“It is our biggest literary work, and I have long dreamt of doing it,” said Kormákur, when he announced he had secured the rights to the depiction of poor Icelandic farmers in the early 20th century, surviving on isolated crofts in an inhospitable landscape.

The director told that “it is an ambitious project because it is a well-known story, but I have a lot of passion for the project.” So far eight of Laxness’ novels have been filmed, including Salka Valka (1954) and most recently, The Honour of the House (Úngfrúin góða og Húsið/1999).

The Deep, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, was licensed to Scandinavia, the UK and France, while the US, Japan and Australia are being negotiated, according to France’s BAC Films Distribution who are handling international sales.

The drama depicts the Westman incident – “an iconic moment in the country’s history, which everyone over 35 remembers” – when on a cold night in March 1984 a fishing boat sank with its entire crew a few miles off the South Coast of Iceland.

Kormákur is currently in Los Angeles editing his new US feature, 2 Guns, a Mark Wahlberg-Denzel Washington crime-actioner about a DEA agent and an undercover Naval Intelligence officer who have been set up by the mob. He also worked with Wahlberg in his latest American outing Contraband.