In the Icelandic film Woman at War, an attractive, fit, middle-aged Icelandic woman Halla (Hallora Geirhardsdottir) uses her skill with a bow, like a real-life Katniss Everdeen, to knock out power lines. Her goal is to disable an aluminum smelter owned by multinational corporations, who plan to bring in more polluting heavy industry.
As Halla nimbly makes her escape across the starkly beautiful landscape, she passes the three-piece band that has been providing the music, although she doesn’t seem to see them. The police, hunting for the saboteur, stop and arrest a hapless Spanish-speaking bicyclist, happens into the area. He says he’s a tourist and they snap back that its not a tourist area.
Halla makes her escape with a little help from a sod farmer and his dog named Woman. When next we see Halla, she looks totally different, arriving elegantly dressed to lead the rehearsal of a community choir in an attractive, bright, high-ceiling hall.
Quirky, yes, but this comedy/drama/thriller also has a lot of heart and considerable entertainment. Nordic countries have a knack for this kind of film – quirky, sort of darkly comedic, slightly surreal, but with underlying serious meaning, and it seems that extends to Iceland.
Woman at War also has very nice photography that highlights to natural beauty of the Icelandic land as well as the attractive modern architecture. There is a lot of music, with a trio of female singers in traditional garb as well as the trio of musicians that seem to follow her around.
Halla is a well-meaning idealist with a secret identity, someone who wants what’s best for her country and the climate. Pictures of Nelson Mandela and Gandhi decorate the walls of her sunny apartment. Turns out, she has done this more than once, and she is not alone in her efforts to derail the efforts of global corporations to muscle in. Even some government officials are are part of this push-back, hoping to slow down the plans to bring in more heavy industry, while building popular opposition.
But things do not go as planned and life adds complications. The film is one that continually takes viewers by surprise, with unexpected warm and poignancy. Nothing quite goes according to Halla’s plan nor according to our expectations, which are often upended until Woman at War makes its way to its unforeseen but satisfying conclusion.