60 years onward

Woman at War (Kona Fer I Strid)


Her against them

by Ariane Allard

The audience at the 2018 edition of La Semaine de la Critique found themselves either seduced, delighted or stunned by Woman at War and its fierce superheroin. It was like a breath of fresh air. Let’s revisit this intoxicating Icelandic environmental tale, breathtakingly sharp and witty…

A truly cocky film, much like its scriptwriter/director/producer Benedikt Erlingsson! The delightful storyteller chooses to perch his new saga in the invigorating Icelandic Highlands. Prepare to be blown away… Not only does it offer us beautiful scenic landscapes, but Woman at War also follows a female hero in her volcanic struggle. No wonder then that it has found its rightful place within the competition and went on to win the SACD Award during the 2018 edition of La Semaine de la Critique! Erlingsson’s second opus, after the acclaimed Of Horses and men in 2013, is one of a kind. It’s something else. And that’s why it had to be part of our highlights…

High Voltage

Take the opening scene. This unforgettable moment immediately transports us into the world of the film, introducing us to a determined woman, half Amazon, half girl-scout, who’s knocking down high-voltage power lines with a wire… “Sabotage!” squeal the local fuzz as they fumble around with their helicopters, drones and sniffing dogs. Be that as it may, the tall, black-haired lady will not stop before she has brought the production of an aluminum plant to a dead stop. In doing so, she denounces the devastating effects of the heavy industry on the environment, in Iceland and throughout the world. Make no mistake, Halla – since that’s her name – is a warrior, and Woman at War a breathtakingly witty and sharp environmental tale.

More specifically, from start to finish, it runs on a variation of burlesque and political takes, poetical and thrilling genres, light and dark themes. Naturally, it is this wacky, free spirit that grabs our attention. It is indeed very difficult to resist the tongue-in-cheek performance of a jazzy fanfare, or a Ukrainian female choir that comes and go during Halla’s trespasses. Cheeky distancing effect if there ever was one. Additionally, the lovely Benedikt’s playful film never drifts off topic nor off-track. That’s also what makes it stimulating. Different. Take the beautiful last sequence of the film, for instance; after many twists and turns, this sequence reminds us how devastating human indifference can be on the environment…

Doña Quixote

The first arrow in the quiver of this film, the one that hits our very heart, is the “superheroin” (the magnificent performance by the mind-boggling Halldòra Geirhardsdòttir). The dynamic fifty-something Halla shows herself as a caring choirmistress (that’s her job), an emancipated twin (her sister being even crazier than she is) and an activist facing crucial choices. Between the odd flyers and a couple of car chases, this Icelandic Doña Quixotte is waiting to know whether she can adopt a little Ukrainian girl… Long story short, Halla is a simple and complex protagonist, and that’s what makes her so endearing. Without any fanfare (other than the one that keeps following her), at the end of the day, she is the celebration of a feminine figure – a mature, beaming, independent daredevil – which, to this day, we seldom if ever see on screen. Her dedication reflects that of this delightful film. Didn’t we tell you? A real big breath of fresh air…

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