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Bishops Castle Film Society

Woman at War - 8th January 2020

Woman At War, Benedikt Erlingsson,
Iceland, 2018, 100 mins


We showed this director’s Of Horses and Men a couple of years ago, and its treatment of the people, animals and landscape of Iceland was warmly received. Woman At War lacks, perhaps, the oddity of the previous film, which is not to say that it is in any sense purely conventional.

 

In fact it presents a mixture of genres, with the exploits of its single-woman, eco-warrior heroine being presented in a combination of musical, action story, comedy, and polemic, with the landscape again given a major role. It has been described as a ‘jet-black comedy’. It is highly entertaining, with a serious ecological  message, but at the same time avoids coming over as simply an earnest statement about the problems of the environment.

Erlingsson and fellow screenwriter Ólafur Egill Egilsson keep things balanced between absurdist comedy and a tense thriller with a crafty plot and heartfelt and believable stakes. Some of the quirkier touches – such as having the musicians play Davíð Þór Jónsson’s folk-influenced score on screen, frequently cued by the actors – are likely to raise an eyebrow early on, only to become integrated into the plot of the film and earn their place as the story progresses. This is especially true when three traditionally-garbed Ukrainian singers join the ensemble as a new constituent to Halla’s inner music. Likewise, a Latin American tourist … who keeps getting arrested as a suspect in Halla’s crimes begins as little more than a running joke only to evolve into a cunning plot device.
(John Bleasdale, Sight and Sound, May 2019)

This movie could have been very preachy. It deals with a middle-aged woman who is very concerned about the effects of industry on the Icelandic environment and decides to take a very active role in opposing it, sabotaging efforts to create a new aluminum processing plant. All very PC.

But it is the form that makes this movie truly exceptional, not to mention fun and fascinating to watch. It is full of imaginative touches that seem to come out of nowhere and that capture your attention and admiration.

The acting is fine, and some of the countryside shots are wonderful, but it's not a scenic tour of Iceland. Rather, it's a remarkably creative take on what could have been a very dull topic.
(audience member review, IMDB, August 2018)

 


 

 

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