Film Review: Woman At War

Woman At War is an intelligently crafted film about a one-woman mission to sabotage Icelandic power lines and push back against ecological damage.

Director Benedikt Erlingsson and lead Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir deliver a highly entertaining yet surprisingly tense story that does much in its 100-minute runtime without convoluting itself.

Geirharðsdóttir plays Halla, an unassuming choir conductor who moonlights as a total badass fighting for the environment. Halla is pursued by the Icelandic government for causing massive power outages with her bow and arrow, disrupting the local aluminium industry. This in turn has an economic effect on the wider population, calling into question just how justified her efforts are. Halla’s mission is compromised when she is cleared for adoption of a young Ukrainian girl orphaned by war, after years on the waiting list.

Woman At War takes some considerably serious subject matter and somehow makes it fun at times, tense in others. A consistently running gag is Erlingsson’s use of diegetic music, performed by a band of musicians who seem to conveniently follow Halla around. Another is a small side-plot featuring an unfortunate foreign tourist who keeps suffering the consequences for Halla’s actions. The comedy comes when you least expect it, especially when after moments of genuine tension.

The film is also aware of its ecological messaging, especially when presenting Halla as a sort of freedom fighter. Throughout the film we see the faces of prominent revolutionary figures, such as Nelson Mandela and Che Guevera. At one point Halla dons a Mandela facemask while committing one of her anarchistic acts, which does come across a little heavy-handed.

Erlingsson delivers a wonderful adventure about taking action in one’s beliefs, and a much-welcome feelgood story about climate change and environmental activism – at a time where we really need some.

Woman At War made its South Australian premiere as part of Adelaide Film Festival

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