'Woman at War' Is Funny and Sharp
- Written by Diane Carson
Halla is a beloved choir director, a good friend to her sister, and eager to receive word on the Ukrainian orphan she’s adopting. Oh, she’s also a very competent, committed eco-terrorist, this reality impressively communicated by the first images of 'Woman at War.' Halla stands up into the frame, powerful bow in hand, and shoots one arrow and then another.
They loop over huge power lines, disrupting the delivery of electricity. She’s protesting various countries’ industrial aluminum production located in Iceland. In particular, she targets China’s intent to build a new smelter there because of Iceland’s very inexpensive, clean geothermal energy. A gruff but loveable cousin, his sheepdog named Woman, and a sympathetic government official aid Halla in her increasingly more aggressive sabotage. Meantime an innocent Latino bicycle tourist is repeatedly arrested by the police, just because of his identity. Amusing twists and turns follow.
Co-writer and director Benedikt Erlingsson has an appealing sense of humor, essential to creating an entertaining work for such a serious social-issue film focused on the need to preserve our precious environment. Erlingsson aptly describes 'Woman at War' as “a heroic tale told as an adventure. A serious fairy tale told with a smile.” To that end, Halla has two huge posters on her wall: tributes to Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela. Further heightening the film’s playful elements, Erlingsson includes three on-screen musicians in numerous indoor and outdoor scenes plus a Ukrainian singing trio. They provide melodic commentary, interpreting Halla’s life in music, and they function as a Greek chorus.
The acting throughout is accomplished and engaging. The gorgeous Icelandic countryside adds another character. In fact, nature seems to be on this earth-mother Halla’s side, providing cover and refuge at various times throughout her surreptitious schemes. This is one of those masterful, complex works that combines important cultural critique with a thoroughly entertaining story. Iceland’s submission for consideration for this year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar, 'Woman at War' is primarily in Icelandic with some Spanish and Ukrainian, all with English subtitles, and with some English.
Exclusively at Landmark’s Plaza Frontenac Cinema.