Woman at War
Stars: Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Davíð Þór Jónsson, Magnús Trygvason Eliasen
Writer-director Erlingsson’s follow-up to the striking ‘Of Horses and Men’ is an appealing mix of heartfelt protest picture, deadpan mildly surreal humanism a lafellow Icelander Aki Kaurismäki, and environmentally conscious-hued adventure. Geirharðsdóttir is Halla, a fifty-year old single woman and choir teacher. She is also a committed environmental activist, known to her admirers as the ‘Woman of the Mountain’, determined to disrupt the operations of a neighbouring aluminium smelting plant. Her twin sister Asa (also played by Geirharðsdóttir) believes the key to healing the world lies within and is about to visit an ashram. While waiting to hear if she has been successful in her attempts to adopt an orphan from the Ukraine, Halla’s activism becomes ever more audacious, attracting the attention of the authorities, even threatening relations between the Iceland and Chinese governments. The director deftly juggles the disparate elements, while presenting a clear-eyed view of the pros and cons of activism. One imaginative sequence has Halla walking down the street and hearing various TV and radio reports emanating from every window, that condemn her activities. In a lovely surreal touch, the score is either provided by a local three-piece, consisting of tuba, trumpet and accordion, or a trio of traditional Bulgarian singers, who appear next to Halla at key moments and observe sympathetically. Any excessive whimsy is grounded by an appealing and entirely relatable performance from Geirharðsdóttir as the down-to-earth but dogged heroine.