Monday 3 June 2019

Woman at War - film review

Halla's (Halldóra Geirharõsdóttir) happy and upbeat exterior as a musician and choir leader hides her secret double life as 'Mountain Woman' an eco-activist determined to sabotage Iceland's damaging industries. When she's not encouraging people to sing she's marching across the wonderful Icelandic landscape bringing down power cables and bringing work in the aluminium smelters to a standstill, though making sure she takes the time to line on the ground and smell the flowers.

The law are after her and she often has to hide from drones and helicopters though a random Spanish tourist is wrongly identified as the culprit. She is helped by Baldvin (Jörundur Ragnarsson), a chorus member and official in the ministry who helps her out with information but is getting increasingly nervous as official response to her activism escalates, a nighbouring farmer  (Jón Jóhannsson) and her identical twin (also played by Halldóra Geirharõsdóttir).

During her campaign she discovers that her four year old application to adopt a Ukrainian orphan has just been passed, making her question whether she can continue her activism.

This is a wonderfully eccentric film, the soundtrack almost entirely provided by a trio of bearded hupsters and a trio of Ukrainian women in traditional costumes who accompany her almost everywhere whether through the mountains or to the airport. 

The viewer is confronted with questions around eco-activism - is economic sabotage akin to terrorism (as the police here believe) or is it (as Halla believes) the only sane response to industry that is damaging the planet? Are the police justified in their response to activists? 

A very timely film that balances a serious message with humour, wonderful landscape and an excellent soundtrack.

Woman at War screening at Edinburgh Filmhouse until Thursday 6 June

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