Saturday 18 May 2019

Film: 'Woman at War'

This is probably the first Icelandic feature film I've ever seen - there are hardly opportunities to see many of them anyway (if there are 'many', that is, which I doubt!) - and it's certainly the first I'm aware of being almost entirely in that language.

It's largely filmed with that bleak, barren and rugged landscape as backdrop, and it's always also interesting to get glimpses of the streets of Reykjavik, a city we too rarely see at all.

Haildora Geirhardosdottir has a double acting role - the primary one as a middle-aged and single eco-warrior, acting self-handedly in sabotaging an aluminium plant by repeatedly bringing down power lines, a position she occupies in secret whilst maintaining a front of being an adult choir mistress - and then as her twin sister who is a student of Eastern philosophy and meditation about to embark on a period of self-discovery at an Indian ashram. 
Whilst in the middle of her active anti-factory campaigning, the first woman hears that an application she made some years before to become a foster mother for an orphaned Ukrainian child has been successful and she is offered the chance to take a four-year old girl from that country. Now faced with the dilemma to accept the child or to cease her campaigning efforts she comes to an arrangement with her twin sister.

It's a compelling story, made yet more interesting by the infrequently viewed country in which she operates. A large part of the latter section of the film concerns her trying to outwit and outrun the police pursuits closing in on her, involving her having to shoot down the spy-drones they employ to investigate ground-level  signs of life.
There are one or two light comedic touches as, for instance , the police keeping after the same hapless Spanish young man whom they suspect as being the culprit of the attacks. 
A feature of the film is how a trio of male musicians (usually keyboard, tuba plus percussion) keep appearing as background to scenes without explanation as to why they are there, or sometimes woven right into the scenes - a kind of 'musical' Greek chorus, if you will, though 'music' is not to be taken too literally. Also appearing, though less frequently, is another trio, this time of young Ukrainian women in their national dress, though I've no idea what they were singing about.

Near the film's end something happens which I personally felt undermined all what had happened before, though reading reviews, few others felt the same way. It struck me as lazy and, perhaps, predictable, though that was the only point at which I felt a bit let down. Incidentally we only actually see the little girl right near the end in a flood-stricken Ukraine.  
Director is native Icelander Benedikt Erlingsson.

An unusual story which, had it been set in another country and/or had it been in English, I don't think would have been nearly as attractive as it's managed to be. I liked it................7.

(IMDb................7.6 / Rott. Toms.......4.4/5 )

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