Wednesday, March 13, 2019

With whom is this woman at war?

The Icelandic movie, Woman at War, leavens serious issues with a comedic touch.

She can bring down a flying drone with a bow and arrow. She's able to rig explosives in ways that topple power lines. She shows improvisational ingenuity when it comes to evading detection by helicopters. Not enough? Well, she also wants to save a Ukranian orphan from a life of deprivation. And, no, she's not Captain Marvel. She's Halla (Halldora Geirharosdottir), an Icelandic woman who commits highly motivated acts of eco-sabotage -- when she's not leading the local choir in her hometown, that is. As director Benedikt Erlingsson develops Woman at War, we learn that a variety of oppositional forces are slamming against one another: individual growth vs. social reform being primary among the clashes. To make the conflict even clearer, Erglingsson gives Halla a twin sister (also played by Geirharosdottir) who -- unlike her sibling -- has decided to pursue her inner journey with a guru in a distant ashram. Further complications arise when Halla receives notification that her nearly forgotten application to adopt a Ukranian child finally has been approved. Should Halla drop her plans to thwart the development of an aluminum smelter and become a parent? Woman at War tackles tough subject matter with a taste for cheerful idiosyncrasy. An example: two groups of musicians show up in unlikely places; an Icelandic oom-pah band and an ensemble of Ukranian folk singers appear from time-to-time. Can these oppositional forms of music be unified? Maybe not entirely. But Erlingsson has fun trying and Woman at War charts a course that's greatly aided by Geirharosdottir's bracingly committed performance and by Erlingsson's artful embrace of a story built around the difficulties of harmonizing apparently discordant elements.

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