Woman at War
Telling the story of one woman’s brutal battle against the expansions of the Rio Tinto Aluminium smelting industry, Woman at War is an intelligent, unequivocally unique and quirky adventure set around the bleak, beautiful highlands of Iceland. The film follows the environmental activist actions of lone pioneer Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) against the dichotomy of her somewhat conventional homebody character, offering an enlightening and whimsical portrayal of politics and heroism.
Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson, Halla is cast in a sort of superhero capacity. She opens the film poised with bow and arrow, ready to tear down electrical pylons, unshakeable and invincible against the police deployed helicopters and the menacing drones seeking her out. Her moniker, “The woman of the mountains”, bestowed by the press, gives the protagonist both notoriety as well as anonymity, which in a sense mirror the iconic poster portraits of Mandela and Gandhi that she hangs in her home.
In her activism, Halla is earnest, ruddy and devoid of sexualisation, and it is absolutely necessary that we see the difference between this and her everyday character. Her daily life as a choir leader, friend and sister – smothered in lipstick and wearing pretty dresses – makes for an interesting and intentional “superhero” shift when she switches between the two roles.
We follow the subject’s narrative closely as she receives news of a successful, long-forgotten adoption application for a young Ukranian girl. We also then meet her bohemian twin sister Ása (played by Geirharðsdóttir too) and it all starts to add a sense of emotion and warmth to Halla’s steadfast character. We find Erlingsson steering us away from this sentimental connection with amusing and eccentric musicians and red herrings that appear to accompany her: a gregarious oompah band on top of the mountains; a Ukranian trio of warbling girls in traditional dress; and a random Spanish tourist Juan (Juan Camillo Roman Estrada), who seems to have the misfortune of mistaken identity and successive arrests.
Woman at War is a kooky, fierce and unpredictable journey. Beautifully scenic and politically enlightening, its volatile finale ultimately rests upon Halla’s choice between motherhood and her innate sense of saving the world.
Woman at War is released in select cinemas on 3rd May 2019.
Watch the trailer for Woman at War here: