Benedikt Erlingsson (director)
03 May 2019 (released)
30 April 2019
Woman at War’s environmental themes will chime with many at this particular time whether you are flat on your back on a bridge blocking traffic or one of those in the traffic frustrated by them. There’s going to be sympathy for the cause but the execution will probably not be seen with as much.
So it is with Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) a committed environmentalist who flits between being a music teacher and vandalising the local aluminium industry that she says is damaging the Icelandic environment. Feeding of information from the inside, Halla is able to get past security and cause some damage to operations.
So much so that she causes the Government to suspend talks with a major corporation that was planning to build a new smelter. However as Halla plots a further attack she receives news that will fundamentally change her way of life making it incompatible with her current lifestyle. Her application to adopt a Ukrainian child has been accepted. Vowing to throw it all in she plots one final spectacular attack.
This is quite an odd film in some respects as while the central themes should generate genuine passion, there’s a remoteness about their presentation that dissipates that. Technically it is gorgeous to look at (with a fantastic sound design) and it’s no wonder that Halla has such passion for the Icelandic Highlands.
At times it’s a thriller and a long chase scene is as tense (and scenic) as you’ll see anywhere. There’s also a humorous side with a running gag of the Latin American tourist (Juan Camillo Roman Estrada) getting arrested for Halla’s crimes into play later on. The humour is playful rather than uproarious such as in Halla’s dealings with her farming ‘cousin’ and a very nervous official.
But there are oddities too such as Davíð Þór Jónsson’s traditional score played on screen by a band, later joined by three Ukrainian singers in traditional dress. It’s an absurd touch that may indeed give formation to Halla’s inner feelings but also adds a distancing surrealism.
Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir is excellent in a dual role as she also plays Asa, Halla’s twin sister who is almost diametrically opposite being a yoga teacher and a seeker of inner light. It’s a robust role that she takes on with some gusto whether cheerfully cycling around the town or being chased over the beautiful rugged landscapes.
Ostensibly about the environment director (and co-written with Ólafur Egill Egilsson) Benedikt Erlingsson also has something to say about big business and government and how easy it is to disinform and manipulate news was it tries to get to grip with the Halla’s activities. All in all, a wide ranging and quirky film.