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“Woman At War” Is A Unique And Comedic Icelandic Offering

Iceland is one of the most interesting places in the world. For all intents and purposes, it can look and feel like being on another planet. At the same time, it’s not off-putting in any way. I’ve actually been to Iceland. It’s a really beautiful and unique place, and that’s putting it mildly. So, it’s a shame that more cinema isn’t coming out of the country. The potential for striking visuals and intriguing stories are almost endless. Luckily, opening this week is one Icelandic option in the comedy Woman at War. It won’t necessarily make you book a trip after seeing the film, but it is an amusing and well made bit of foreign cinema, something that’s always welcome in the early parts of any year.

The movie is a comedy about the lengths that someone will go to stand up for what they believe in. Our introduction to Halla (Halldora Geirharosdottir) comes as she’s destroying a power line and causing a power outage that shuts down an aluminum factory close by. Evading the police back to her hometown of Reykjavik, we see that Halla is leading a double life. When she’s not a hardcore activist, or perhaps even an eco-terrorist, she’s looked at as the middle aged head the local choir. As this is going on, she’s also juggling family issues, as well as a long in the running effort to adopt a child. When she makes moves to more actively plot against the aluminum factory, hoping to prevent it from ruining the beauty of her country, she becomes a fugitive. What initially was one final foray before embracing motherhood may now become her defining act of defiance. Benedikt Erlingsson directs and co-writes with Olafur Emilsson. The supporting cast includes Gunnar Bersi Björnsson, Juan Camillo, Magnus Trygvason Eliasen, Roman Estrada, Jón Gnarr, Omar Guojonsson, David Thor Jonsson, Jorundur Ragnarsson, andJohann Siguroarson, among others. Bergsteinn Bjorgulfsson handled the cinematography, while the score comes from the aforementioned David Thor Jonsson.

This film manages to both make you laugh and also be about something important, mostly in equal measure. There’s an admirable balance here. You laugh at Hella’s unusual methods, but you root for her cause. As an aside, it also feels ready made to be swooped up by Hollywood and remade, so it comes as no surprise that a remake is in the works as a Jodie Foster directorial/starring vehicle. Woman at War is both specific and universal in nature, so this makes sense. Watching Geirharosdottir fight the good fight and go up against big industrial forces is positively rousing. Initially, there’s more humor on display, but as you really start to feel the full weight of the story, the stakes are raised. Any tale about the little guy standing up to a corporate giant is going to likely get you to raise your fists. This one just happens to do it with a little bit of offbeat style as well.

Starting this Friday, audiences looking for something a little bit different, as well as with an international flavor, have an interesting option to consider when Woman at War opens. Iceland has a really strong future on the cinematic world stage ahead of itself if voices like Erlingsson are being developed within their borders. It’ll just be a matter of time. Until then, we have Woman at War to grab on to. It’s not going to blow you away, but as a low-key foreign flick during the winter dumping ground, it does manage to stand out. Give it a look and see what you think. You may very well find yourself hoping that the country puts out more product like this as soon as possible…

Be sure to check out Woman at War, opening in limited release beginning this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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