Don’t miss one of this year’s new and important films—“Woman at War.’ It is a unique one from Iceland that not only is moving and entertaining, but taps smartly into a major issue of our times, protecting the environment. It does so in a special style that director Benedikt Erlingsson uses to involve us and make the film’s important points.
You will see a terrific actress, Halldóra Geirharôsdóttir, in the role of Halla, a choral director who decides to wage a personal war against companies fouling the environment. We watch her at the outset armed with a bow and arrow and prowling the countryside to shoot down communications wires on towers and thus thrust companies into darkness and stalled activity.
This is a leading lady with a strong face and an athletic physique, someone with whom you can enjoy connecting. If that were not enough, she also has a look-alike sister, Ása, who becomes a major part of the plot. Geirharôsdóttir plays both parts, with the characters smoothly integrated via editing when they are shown together.
There is also another side to Halla. She is planning to adopt an orphaned little girl from the Ukraine, bring her home and raise her. As you might guess, Halla’s war will complicate her goal.
The director uses music for the film in a very creative way. In the background of many scenes musicians are playing, almost as if following the heroine around. The band consists of a sousaphone player, a drummer and either a pianist or an accordion player. There is also a group of three Ukrainian singers. This concept is not only amusing but endows the film with sort of a fairy tale tone that allows for broadness and is much different than the traditional method of having a score in the background.
A foreign tourist keeps getting arrested by mistake, which offers some comic relief and provides a further dimension that illustrates the bumbling in attempts by police to capture the anti-pollution warrior.
We see Halla on the run and using her wiles and instincts to accomplish her missions. She finds cave-like cavities below mounds of earth in which to hide when pursued in her countryside (beautifully filmed) escapades. The screenplay by director Erlingsson and Ólafur Egill Egilsson skillfully integrates Halla’s personal and warrior life and makes her a very appealing character. In her home are inspirational photos on her wall of Gandhi and Mandela.
“Woman at War” couldn’t be timelier. It should impress those who are battling to protect the environment, and instead of a polemical treatise, it is an imaginative drama that encourages individuals to take whatever actions they can do to their part in the battle to save the planet. Three cheers for Halla and a film that emerges as one of the best in 2019 thus far. A Magnolia Pictures release. Reviewed February 27, 2019.