Woman at War Review
It's got to be good news when Jodie Foster wants to star in and direct a remake of your movie
Already picked up for a US remake with Jodie Foster, this quirky Icelandic eco-thriller hits all the right notes.Written, directed and produced by Benedikt Erlingsson, Woman at War is a distinctively and playfully stylish, sometimes incidentally amusing, sometimes surprisingly tense drama. Although seemingly simple and straightforward, it draws you in confidently by soon making everything very complex for its protagonist, beautifully coming together as a small concept feature which clearly knows exactly where it's going right from the opening scene.
A small concept feature which clearly knows exactly where it's going right from the opening scene
The story follows eco-warrior Halla, who has been making a series of successful solo strikes against a big aluminium mining operation, taking out power lines to stop - or at least slow - production, but knows that every successive one could be her last, with the authorities using roadblocks, drones, and even satellites to try and catch her.
As she contemplates her next strike, news comes that the ancient application she put in to adopt a Ukrainian orphan has come back successful, putting a spanner in her seemingly kamikaze eco-mission.
It's a choice role for little-known Icelandic actress Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, who drives the piece with her fierce determination, perfectly reflecting the dedication and single-mindedness of her character's obvious inspirations (pictures of Ghandi and Mandela adorn her walls). She's a great protagonist and, despite her extreme actions, it's easy to get behind her and the choices she makes, particularly under pressure - in another movie the story would end with her being secreted away by the CIA for covert ops.
Since the remake is likely a way off, take the time to investigate the fabulous original now
Erlingsson's drama is beautifully founded on a simple structure, spiralling out of control with perfectly choreographed motion, and instilled with a playful tone which somehow leaves the film wildly distinctive - and undeniably quirky - without defusing the tension that he simultaneously builds. He gives a whole new meaning to the use of diegetic/non-diegetic music, incorporating the memorable live score in a highly stylised way which will likely antagonise and may even polarise opinions; but it's a confident move that works for the piece (think: Takeshi 'Sonatine' Kitano's playful style) and, coupled with the striking natural Icelandic backdrop, gives the film a very distinctive flavour.
It will be interesting to see what Jodie Foster does with the narrative - likely ending up being a much more striking eco-statement - but since the remake is likely a way off, take the time to investigate the fabulous original feature now. A darling at the Cannes Film Festival, it was rightly in competition to be a part of the last Academy Awards' Best Foreign nominations, and deserved to make the cut. Recommended.
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