This is an exceptional film. This is a political thriller, a comedy with surreal overtones, an eco-action film full of Icelandic humour and drama. But foremost it is the showcase of a strong female performance – about the indomitable spirit of one woman who will have to make hard choices. Great use of music and song, especially the fourth wall interaction with the musicians and protagonists. Soul-searching, absurd, with underlying tragedy. Reminiscent of the great Aki Kaurismaki.
Woman at War takes its tone not from Van Trier but deadpan pranksters like the Finnish Aki Kaurismaki, whose absurdities have an undercurrent of tragedy.
Woman at War is an environmental drama wrapped in whimsical comedy and tied with a bow of midlife soul-searching.
Halla is a 50-year-old environmental activist who crusades against the local aluminium industry in Iceland. As her actions grow bolder, her life changes in the blink of an eye when she is finally granted permission to adopt a girl from the Ukraine.
With a deadpan sense of humour and a brilliantly stylized approach, Woman at War is a lot of fun as we follow an eco-terrorist as she tries to shut down an aluminium plant in Iceland. Funny and sweet, this original style is endearing and makes the whole film quite delightful and unexpected.
Basically, Halla is angry. Angry at Rio Tinto whose smelter is damaging the pristine environment of Iceland. So she takes direct action, sabotaging electricity pylons, cutting off power to the smelter – therefore putting at stake a resources exploitation deal between China and Iceland. Halla’s receives inside information from a senior civil servant who is now worried that Halla will be caught.
When she is then pursued by helicopters and drones she hides in crevices, using the carcass of dead sheep to fool heat-seeking radar. She discovers a long lost cousin who helps her escape. A three piece band and choir trio appear incongruously in scenes. Eventually the surreal turns existential, Halla goes to a rooftop to scatter copies of her manifesto, the band enter the action and tweet images of her proclamation.
Iceland 2018, 100 min, rated PG
Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson
Starring Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Jóhann Sigurðarson, Juan Camillo Roman Estrada & Jörundur Ragnarsson