A White, White Day (Hvítur, Hvítur Dagur)
Plumes of cloud drift from the mountain tops of a remote Icelandic town, overlooking the house which the grizzled Ingimundur rebuilds with his young granddaughter. His wife has died two years earlier; a sustained opening shot shows her car swerving in the fog and plummeting down a chasm. The second feature from Hlynur Palmason (Winter Brothers) uses this setting to explore a bleak grieving process and one which turns all together deadly.
Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson gives a studied portrayal of ex-cop Ingimundur, whose wife is cruelly taken from him, and begins to see pieces of a crime formulating as he suspects a local of having had an affair with her. It’s a raw, powerful performance that holds the film together, exploring the bruised masculinity of a man who has seen broken families but doesn’t know how to act when his own life no longer fits into a conventional order.
Palmason shoots in a stifled, regulated style which robs the story of any immediate tension. We watch comfortable middle-class lives, which aren’t particularly critiqued in their self-sufficiency. It wouldn’t be an Icelandic movie without some time spent fishing, although Palmason proves awareness of his own genre by showing Ingimundur sardonically reading aloud from the blurb of Nordic noir paperback.
In one heartrending scene, Ingimundur goes to the place of his wife’s death and rolls a rock off the edge, reliving the moment. The unstoppable momentum of that rock clashes with the strict stillness of the cinematography, creating a topography of space which only really becomes apparent in the later stages of the film. As the suspense ratchets up, the more extreme physicality becomes incongruous with this same visual style, we are confronted by how bodies fit into this landscape. How can the perfect IKEA designs of the houses and the serenity of these isolated landscapes be of a piece with a world of pain, betrayal and retribution?
Its formality is rarely pushed in surprising ways, but the machinations of this gritty, stripped-back story escalates in shocking and violent ways which recall last year’s Dogman (Matteo Garrone). The emotional climax does, somewhat inevitably, enter the realm of the corny, an impotent rage scream into the abyss. But A White, White Day remains a tense and rewarding exploration of grief which proves Palmason to be an expert storyteller.
A White, White Day (Hvítur, Hvítur Dagur) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for A White, White Day (Hvítur, Hvítur Dagur) here: