The Icelandic environmentalist film now out from Magnolia has a goofy sense of humor
Halla is many things: an independent woman, a twin sister, a choir director, a prospective adoptive mother… and an eco-vigilante. With an aluminum plant outside Reykjavik in her sights, she deploys tricks to disrupt production, finding new ways to knock out power to the plant without being caught. She befriends a farmer near the open fields where the electric towers stand; he is won over by her determination and wiliness.
The only thing that stands in the way of her one-woman battle for environmental justice is the possibility of her adopting a little girl. Can she stifle this part of her self to become involved in the life of a child? And will her twin sister, unaware of her secret identity, stand by her?
Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir plays Halla, this woman in her 50s who lives a double life, in Benedikt Erlingsson’s Woman at War. More darkly comic than I expected, the Icelandic film never has to preach to get its point across about the clear and present effects of climate change and how governments and corporations can twist facts (or ignore them) when money is a factor.
In Geirharðsdóttir’s layered performance, Halla’s earnest nature and hope for a better future shine through — although it’s obvious she doesn’t mind a bit of subterfuge. Halla falls prostrate to the earth in moments of desperation or contemplation, embracing the ground in a way that seems only natural. Of course her character would do so. The actress also plays Ása, the flighty twin sister who teaches yoga and plans to serve in an ashram.
Halla is accompanied in her actions by a small trio of musicians, reminiscent of the troubadours in Cat Ballou. Their music plays as a melodic narration that only Halla hears (there is some fourth-wall-breaking involved here). The instrumentalists are joined by a trio of Ukrainian singers when Halla finds out she might be adopting a young orphan named Nika from that country. These musical choices fit into the overall humor of Woman at War.
Erlingsson’s film is a standout, given the method of storytelling, the message of our precarious environmental situation couched in a small-time crime caper, and the memorable character of Halla, equally fierce and charming. It’s hard to imagine a drama about climate change can be delightful, but that’s exactly what Woman at War is.
Woman at War is now out on DVD and Digital HD from Magnolia Home Entertainment. Sadly, there are no special features on the DVD.