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Woman at War is an arrowing watch

02 May, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir in Woman at War

Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson
Certificate 12a

AS the public conversation over climate change appears to be moving forward, helped by the actions of the Extinction Rebellion campaigners, this film feels timely.

But the story of an Icelandic woman who decides to take on the aluminium industry with some glorious direct action isn’t just in the cinema during a time when for once our minds are a little more focused on how we are killing our planet, it’s actually a rollicking good watch in its own right.

This isn’t just something for the righteous, who have the ability to see and confront the multiple issues we face as a species – it’s simply a well-crafted tale, with a couple of great folk heroes as the leads.

We meet Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) as she shoots an arrow from a quiver into power lines on a desolate hillside. It creates a power outage at a huge metal-smelting plant.

Halla is, by day, a choir conductor and music teacher, and when she isn’t giving us beautiful music, she is an environmental Rambo.

We follow her on her missions, while a sub-plot examines her wish to adopt a child, a symbol perhaps of what she is fighting for on a personal level.

Music plays a role throughout – and instead of having a score that the viewer can only hear but not see where it is coming from, director Erlingsson adds a layer of quirkiness by having a trio of musicians pop up like a Greek chorus to provide incidental music – while the choir also give it harmonies at crucial moments of drama.

This is fun – it is original, and in the lead Geirharðsdóttir we have a superb portrayal of someone not prepared to stand by but to take action.

It also shows Iceland off: a fascinating country whose political landscape has changed radically after the 2008 crash.

It is a nation striving to halt the evils of capitalism and inequality, replacing it with a social conscience instead. And we also, of course, have a story played out on the stunning environment bequeathed to its inhabitants.

Iceland aims to be carbon neutral by 2040 – a target ahead of the Paris Accords. For Halla, this might be good, but it’s not good enough. We have a new folk hero to root for.


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