Cinema Review: Woman at War

Posted April 30, 2019 in Cinema Reviews

Taphouse september 2019

Woman at War

Director: Benedikt Erlingsson

Talent: Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir

Released: 3 May

Woman at War, directed by Benedikt Erlingsson, is an Icelandic film centring around an eccentric eco-warrior named Halla. Leading a double life as a music teacher and a menace to industrial corporations, Halla is determined to sabotage negotiations between the Icelandic government and a company preparing to build a new aluminium smelter. However, when Halla learns that her application to adopt a child has finally been successful she is faced with a crippling decision: should she continue to fight against the damaging of her homeland, potentially sabotaging her own happiness, or cease her efforts and be content to be a mother.

With evocative cinematography, the film is masterfully shot by Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson, featuring striking images of Icelandic landscapes. However, Björgúlfsson may be guilty of being a tad too amorous towards a wide aperture – sacrificing potentially powerful shots for an excessively dramatic blurred background. With the score’s musicians featuring as interactive participants within scenes, Erlingsson evokes a sense of Wes Anderson-esque unreality. Unfortunately, such attempts at playfulness grow increasingly irritating as the film progresses, the intrusive musicians halting the flow of the narrative, and the percussion-dominated sounds reminiscent of drummers busking on Grafton street.

Woman at War probes viewers to consider who has the right to decide the fate of the environment and should it be a criminal offence to defend it from destruction. Despite the plot revolving around environmental issues, however, the film does imbue the viewer with a sense of accountability. Either Erlingsson did not intend the film to be didactic, simply using global warming as a plot device, or he failed to make the issue salient.

Woman at War is a playful depiction of one woman’s determination to defend her natural habitat from its demise, however, its integrity suffers in its attempts to be wacky and unconventional.

Words: Courtney Byrne


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