(director/writer: Benedikt Erlingsson; screenwriter: Ólafur Egill Egilsson; cinematographer: Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson; editor: Davíð Alexander Corno; music: Davíð Þór Jónsson; cast: Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir (Halla/Asa), Jóhann Sigurðarson (Sveinbjörn), Davíð Þór Jónsson (Pianist / accordion player), Magnús Trygvason Eliasen (Drummer), Ómar Guðjónsson (Sousaphone player), Iryna Danyleiko (Ukrainian choir singer), Galyna Goncharenko (Ukrainian choir singer ), Susanna Karpenko (Ukrainian choir singer), Jörundur Ragnarsson (Baldvin), Juan Camillo Roman Estrada (Juan Camillo), Charlotte Bøving (Woman at adoption agency), Björn Thors (Prime Minister), Hilmir Snær Guðnason (Taxi driver ), Jón Jóhannsson (Farmer), Þorsteinn Guðmundsson (Prison guard), Helga Braga Jónsdóttir (Prison Guard), Jón Gnarr (President of the Republic of Iceland), Vala Kristín Eiríkssdóttir (Stefania); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Marianne Slot, Benedikt Erlingsson, Carine Leblanc; Magnolia Pictures; 2018 -Iceland/ Ukraine/France-Icelandic with English subtitles)

“It’s the kind of eccentric film that delivers a needed political message about the environment.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Icelandic actor-turned-director Benedikt Erlingsson (“Of Horses and Men”) is the helmer of this enjoyable environmental activist film. Though executed in a lighthearted manner it nevertheless has great emotional and political depth. The offbeat screenplay by Erlingsson and Ólafur Egill Egilsson travels across all borders.

The 50-year-old Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) lives in small industrial town in Iceland. She leads a double life as a respectable choir conductor and covertly as a passionate environmental activist trying to save the planet’s ecology, and is known to others in the movement only by her alias “The Woman of the Mountain.” The industrial enemy is the local aluminum factory. It contracts the energy company from China to help the aluminum plant expand a smelter operation without taking steps to protect the environment. The activists realize this will destroy the surrounding landscape. When the government power structure shows it doesn’t care, Halla sabotages the new operation by destroying its electrical power pylons. This goes viral and she becomes a national hero. The police however pursue it as a serious threat on their country’s inner structure.

Halla is also at this time in the process of adopting a four-year-old girl from the Ukraine, and now wonders if maybe her radicalism was to fill a need for not being a mother.

Woman at War navigates its quirky narrative through a blend of comedy and dramatics and an odd strain of band music. It features Davíð Þór Jónsson’s unique playing of the tuba and a pleasing Ukrainian folk singing group. Through a number of vignettes, set in the beautiful landscapes of Iceland’s countryside, the timely story unfolds but never loses it dramatic gravitas despite its whimsical underlying comedy. It’s the kind of eccentric film that delivers a needed political message about the environment, and does it in a way that’s most informative as well as entertaining.

By the way Halla has a twin sister Asa, also played by Geirharðsdóttir, who is off to stay at an Indian ashram and pursue her study of the inner path through yoga.

REVIEWED ON 3/1/2019   GRADE: B+  https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/