Woman at War (Kona fer í stríð)
19th October 2018 9.00pm at Picturehouse Central
21st October 2018 3.00pm at Ciné Lumière
Is it possible to combine an eccentric and idiosyncratic sense of humour with serious questions of eco-radicalism to produce a decent film? Benedikt Erlingsson’s Kona fer í stríð (Woman at War) achieves this ambitious goal successfully, and even manages to maintain a consistent tone throughout its 100-minute runtime.
The picture features Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir), who has declared war on the aluminium industry to protect Iceland’s Highland ecosystem from further destruction. Leading a double-life as a choir leader and a radical environmentalist, the character’s acts of sabotage grow in extremity as do the means she has to go to in order to remain undetected. Things get complicated when she receives notice that her application for an adoption has been accepted after four years of waiting for feedback.
Erlingsson’s excellent pacing manages always to keep the feature entertaining, moving seamlessly between more humorous moments – such as Halla using a dead ram to evade the police force’s heat detectors – and more serious meditations on the conflict between leading a normal life and being an activist. Woman at War never gets boring. This is partly achieved through the perfect use of (very unusual) sound throughout – which also acts as a running gag, since the band playing the soundtrack always features in the background, seemingly following Halla around and adding the right tone to her life.
The acting is also superb, with Geirharðsdóttir playing a very strong lead role as Halla, capturing the essence of a character living in an absurdly humorous world, which is nevertheless plagued by environmental difficulties and emotional tension. With his Iceland setting, Erlingsson also uses the opportunity to present a beautifully shot film, including wonderful views over the Highlands and clever closeups in the city.
Woman at War is a strong entry to the London Film Festival, but it is not entirely perfect, with slight weaknesses in the script preventing it from achieving perfection. The plot itself is rather conventional, which feels oddly out of place considering the otherwise quirky characters and humorous tone throughout. Also Halla, while an engaging and interesting protagonist, never really experiences any major character development.
But these issues can only slightly mar an otherwise excellent comedy that engages with serious questions about ecological issues, and leaves us thinking about how to juxtapose successfully political questions with quiet, normal lives.
Woman at War (Kona fer í stríð) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Woman at War (Kona fer í stríð) here: