OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

Woman At War

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Halla is nudging 50. She leads a choir, keeps healthy with Tai Chi, and lives alone in a cosy apartment decorated with posters of Nelson Mandela and Gandhi. She is also an eco-terrorist, bent on wrecking Iceland’s economy and infrastructure. But nobody, outside of Halla’s most trusted confidantes, would link the two identities: the mild-mannered music teacher and the shadowy anti-capitalist saboteur who short-circuits power lines with a bow and arrow. This is already a tasty enough premise, but then Halla is forced to question everything she believes in when she learns that her dream of adopting a child is tantalizingly close to fruition.

Poster for the eco-terrorist drama Woman At WarWith her glacial blue eyes, boyish haircut and a crossbow slung over her shoulder, Halla (a magnetic Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) exudes a single-minded sense of purpose. Shot from slightly below as she gazes up at the electricity cables above, she looks like Joan of Arc in a woolly sweater. Geirharðsdóttir has a physically demanding role – Halla spends a lot of time bounding across volcanic crags and evading surveillance helicopters. But she is equally effective in conveying the softer side of her formidably determined character, the part which melts when she is shown a photograph of the orphaned Ukrainian four-year-old she could adopt.

Fittingly, given Halla’s profession, music plays a central role in Woman At War. But it is not just the score that asserts itself; in a bold and pleasingly quirky move, director Erlingsson places the musicians on screen during the action. A Ukrainian vocal trio and a three-piece band consisting of accordion, drums and sousaphone interact with Halla, although she is unaware of their presence. It’s a playful wink to the audience, particularly when the musicians take their inspiration from the rhythms of the action.

– Wendy Ide, Screen International

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