TIFF Review: Woman at War
By Nabeela Damji
Woman at War, director Benedikt Erlingsson’s second film, is a story about one woman’s quest to, quite literally, make the world a better place, one kickass move at a time.
Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir), is a 49-year-old choir conductor by day and environmental activist by night who, in the opening scene, shoots down a major powerline with a crossbow. This girl is badass. Halla has been leading a one-woman resistance against Iceland’s aluminum industry, but a sudden twist of fate has her in a compromising position. Halla learns she is next in line to adopt a 4-year-old girl from the Ukarine – something she hasn’t even thought about in four years. She decides it’s time to hang up the crossbow, but only after one final go. As her notoriety grows and more and more people are after her, Halla seeks refuge with the help of a new found “cousin”, and her twin sister Asa.
Geirharðsdóttir does a fantastic job as both Halla as Asa, and the film uses the nature and scenery of Iceland’s breathtaking beauty to enhance the story. One of the most unique aspects of this film is the original music by Davíð Þór Jónsson. A three-piece Icelandic band and female Ukrainian vocalists are the forefront of the film, and what is so unique about this film is that they are actually an integral part of it. The band can usually be seen in the background of a scene, or in some intances, Halla directs them to start playing “background” music. It’s something director Erlingsson has done before, but nothing I have seen before. It actually adds more to the film and makes it more unique. The dramatic twist at the end was unexpected but had everyone in the audience cheering.
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Woman at War is heartfelt, badass, and brings the beauty of Iceland to the world. The film blends humor with the seriousness of Halla’s mission to create a perfect balance to a dark film.
*Editor’s Note: Woman At War as screened at the Toronto International Film Festival ‘18
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