Weighty environmental fable with a light touch and warm heart
- Woman at War review by PD
Benedikt Erlingsson's film raises some weighty themes but treats them with a very light touch and warm heart. It's basically an environmental drama wrapped in whimsical comedy and tied up with a bow of midlife soul-searching. The package is a little hit-and-miss, but is still very watchable due to to an engaging central performance and a cinematographer, Bergsteinn Bjorgulfsson, whose sweeping shots of frozen heath and lowering Icelandic skies tend to save us from extraneous distractions.
The movie’s heart and spine is Halla (Halldora Geirharosdottir), 50, a sunny choir director and fearless eco-activist. Intent on halting the construction of a new aluminum smelter outside Reykjavik, she sabotages power lines and does (literal) battle with the drones deployed to find her. Her exploits become increasingly daring, and when we see no partner or family other than an identical twin sister (also played by Geirharosdottir), we begin to wonder if her adventures are filling more than just a need to save her homeland, a suspicion strengthened after the arrival of a letter announcing that her application to adopt a child, filed years earlier, has been approved. Yet as Halla teeters between motherhood and vandalism, creation and destruction, her embrace of the natural world intensifies. Often she’s pictured moving through water or clinging to the earth, face buried in gorse and arms flung wide, as if trying to stop her world from spinning, whilst surreal touches, like pop-up musicians only Halla can see, give the movie’s politics a playful, fable-like quality.
There's quite a few implausible plot twists and the adoption sub-plot perhaps doesn't quite work as well as the main 'woman vs world' theme, but generally this is a poignant, intriguing piece of filmmaking.
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