Woman at War – Film review

There’s something about the Icelandics that can inject a breath of fresh air into whatever they do. There’s Bjork – who puts an off-beat twist to her performances – and the ethereal sounds of Sigur Ros. It could be the abundance of nature and landscape that frees a mind from constraints to think differently. And now Benedikt Erlingsson’s Woman at War joins this list.

Our protagonist, Halla (played by Halldora Geirharosdottir), is well-known within the local community. While teaching a choral group, she secretly plots attacks against industry to help the save the environment. Her bold exploits range from vandalism to bringing down electricity pylons – she is one-woman army. With the help of a government insider, Halla keeps ahead of the authorities who are tracking down the perpetrator, simply known as ‘The Mountain Woman’.

That is until an unexpected letter arrives, informing Halla that her application sent 4 years ago to adopt a child has found a match. Now on the eve of becoming a mother, Halla must decide if this new responsibility is still on the cards for her.

This is a visually-stunning film using the landscape to great effect. Geirharosdottir is superb as Halla, conveying the character’s dilemma with quiet integrity and with a sparse script that veers away from over-exposition.

The film’s musical compositions provide an entertaining interlude to the events on screen. Erlingsson places a musical trio of tuba, accordion and drummer in the scene to underline the action. It is a comical device, providing Halla with her own soundtrack, egging her on.

Erlingsson explains, “You could say that through this device I want to come to an agreement with the audience about what sort of film this is and what laws it abides by. It is a hero’s tale in a world saturated by heroes’ tales about heroes saving the world.”

Jodie Foster is set to direct and star in an English version of the film; its doubtful that it could improve on this treatment.

Woman at War opens nationally Thursday 4 April 2019.

4.5 stars

About Woman at War

Directed by: Benedikt Erlingsson
Written by: Benedikt Erlingsson, Olafur Egill Egilsson
Stars: Halldora Geirharosdottir, Johann Siguroarson, Jorundur Ragnarsson, Jon Johannsson

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