Woman At War (12A)

Dec 11, 2019
Anson Paul

The latest film from the director of the memorable ‘Of Horses and Men’, this jet black comedy features Halla, a choir leader and environmental guerrilla who takes on corporations to protect her native Iceland. Wonderfully quirky, but ultimately thought provoking and shot in beautiful scenery.



‘Woman at War’ is a 2018 Icelandic -Ukrainian Post Modern eco friendly, absurdist comedy thriller film written, produced and directed by Benedikt Erlingsson, and starring Halldóra Geirhardsdottir. This is Erlingsson’s second film, his first being the much admired “Of Horses and Men”(previously shown and enjoyed by Film Society). He shares his dry laconic comedic style with that other celebrated Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki (‘Other Side of Hope’) even going so far as to use that director’s quirky conceit of placing live musicians in the narrative as orchestral commentary on the action.’

‘Woman at War’ is set very much in the present, although it just pre empted ‘Extinction Rebellion’ and ostensibly concerns a middle aged, middle class woman Halla and her guerrilla war against the “corrupt” multinationals, in this case Rio Tinto Aluminium, a war that entails blowing up the national grid when and where she deems necessary. However this is not “Mission Impossible” but an extremely entertaining dramatic analysis of just what it is really like to try and save the world.

The plot derives its riveting dramatic tension from Halla’s recently accepted application to adopt a child and the authorities’ increasing success in discovering her identity and disqualifying her from her dream role as a mother…after all why save the world if not for the children?

Halla desires to be a responsible citizen but the only way she feels she can achieve this is by being a rebel. This is the split nature of the human race ”To be or not to be…that is the question.”

The entire narrative is set up as a set of contradictions in three acts…Halla leads a choir, symbol of harmony, yet is a luddite subversive, saviour of humanity, enemy of the people; responsible mother, irresponsible adult; impractical daydreaming, Gandhi-worshipping pacifist, ruthlessly practical terrorist. It soon becomes clear that in order to succeed in her objectives Halla has to be two different things at once, a conundrum Erlingsson brilliantly resolves with a cinematic device you will need to see.

One of the most notable features of this film are its cunningly conceived cat and mouse action sequences, a use of the $2.9 budget that seems to have so impressed the Hollywood accountants that they have announced an “English” version to be directed by Jodie Foster. LOL

Things to watch for. The cycling Columbian of “Of Horses and Men” is reprised here as the hapless innocent scapegoat of all Halla’s activity and is arrested on numerous occasions, because when in doubt it’s those foreigners. It’s a great “running” gag.                          Philip Bret-Day


            Weighted vote 90.8%