TIFF Review: 'Woman at War' Is an Idiosyncratic Instant Classic Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson

Starring Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Jóhann Siguðarson, Juan Camillo Roman Estrada
TIFF Review: 'Woman at War' Is an Idiosyncratic Instant Classic Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson
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This delightfully fresh film from Icelandic director Benedikt Erlingsson covers a lot of ground in its 100 minutes. The film follows choir conductor/environmental activist Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) as she works covertly to disrupt an aluminum plant by damaging power pylons, navigating her secret identity as her exploits go viral with her impending adoption of an orphaned child. Geirharðsdóttir imbues Halla with plenty of vivid charisma, confidently commanding the scene.
 
The film's idiosyncratic style is instantly captivating, featuring Davíð Þór Jónsson's idiosyncratic, tuba- and Ukrainian folk singer-led score (expertly woven into the visuals) and brilliant cinematography from Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson imbuing each frame with depth and deliberation (and not just because of the gorgeous Icelandic countryside).
 
It never takes itself too seriously, but the absurd and comic elements never undermine the weighty, topical subject matter. The dramatic and comedic complement each other beautifully, turning a lengthy cat-and-mouse chase sequence into a clever series of vignettes anchored by elaborate camouflage, organically set up by the character work.
 
Deftly balancing its whimsical comedic tone and dramatic heft, Woman at War is a unique, engaging thrill ride with plenty of heart.
 
(Mongrel Media)