A quirky, subversive gem, Woman at War gives Icelandic cinema a platform on the world stage. It’s beautifully nuanced and skilfully performed by a small cast.
Halla is a 49-year-old Icelandic woman. She’s a respected choir leader, who leads a mysterious double life. Her other self is a passionate environmental activist who flouts the law. Known to the public only by her alias “The Mountain Woman” her beef is with the local aluminium industry, which is encroaching on the pristine highlands she loves. Her actions become bolder and her legend grows. But something else far more personal is going, which may scupper her plans.
Director and co-writer Benedikt Erlingsson set out to create a heroic tale in a world facing imminent threat. He wanted to tell the story as an adventure – a serious fairy tale if you like. He’s succeeded. I found myself cheering for Halla despite the fact she’s involved in industrial sabotage (which I can’t condone).
Erlingsson masterfully creates a series of priceless scenes, made all the more so by the stellar performance of Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir. Playing identical twin sisters, she eats up the rugged landscape with her bravura showing as a (figurative, not literal) superwoman. Watch for recurrent appearances by an oom-pah trio, three songstresses and a hapless tourist on a bicycle. Pure genius.
The budget may be small, but Woman at War’s impact is anything but. It leaves an indelible impression. This is a must-see; a rare treat that has originality stamped all over it.
Director: Benedikt Erlingsson
Cast: Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir
Release Date: 11 April 2019
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.