Woman at War

First Hit: A quirky and compelling story about one woman’s fight against the destruction of her homeland, Iceland.

Halla (Halldora Geirharosdottir) is a music choir teacher, and she conducts her choir group in singing native Icelandic songs of joy. However, she’s also a deeply committed activist who is willing to put her life on the line to stop Rio Tinto aluminum plant from producing products that harm the environment.

This plant is located in the rugged highlands of her native country and to stop its production Halla finds ways of shorting out the electric power grid used to run the plant.

This is how the film opens: Halla using a bow and arrow to short the high voltage electrical lines feeding the plant. Then we follow her escape and evade the government’s helicopters which are searching for the person or group of people destroying the factory’s electrical power source.

Then she shows up, well-dressed and out of her rugged clothing, to teach her choir students light-hearted songs. One of the choir member’s Baldvin (Jorundur Ragnarsson) is a member of the government, and he is working closely with Halla to fight the intrusion of this Chinese company into their Icelandic culture. They are cautious when they speak together, as noted by how they put their cell phones in the refrigerator each time they meet to talk strategy of Hella’s next actions.

During an escape from the government helicopters, Hella finds herself on the farm of Sveinbjorn (Johann Siguroarson). He lives alone and calls his dog “Woman.” Sizing up Hella, he decides to help her escape the agents that are looking for her.

Sveinbjorn and Hella develop a trust and friendship which is developed throughout the remaining part of the film. This is a lovely part of the story. Hella also has a sister, Asa (also played by Geirharosdottir), who teaches meditation and yoga.

Four years earlier, both Asa and Hella had applied to become adoptive parents. And just when Hella’s activist events are becoming more involved, she gets a letter and telephone call that there is a young Ukrainian girl ready for her to adopt.

The rest of the film takes us on the conflicted ride of Hella the activist versus Hella the soon to be a mother and letting us see how she attempts to reconcile the difficulties of doing both. It is a wonderful ride, as all the players have an active influence in her next steps.

The quirkiness of the story is added to by a three-piece band that arrives and is staged prominently in particular scenes to add an odd emphasis to each scene. Additionally, there is a three-girl chorus dressed in traditional clothing, that pop-up in scenes to give flavor to the scene’s importance. However, it is the odd interjection of Juan Camillo (Juan Camillo Roman Estrada) a Spanish man traveling through Iceland on his bicycle that brings both unusual enjoyment and how it doesn’t always pay to be in a particular place at a specific time.

I loved seeing the stark ruggedness of the Icelandic countryside, and it was beautifully shot by the cinematographer. The story was wonderfully paced, and the point of one person having an impact was clearly made.

Geirharosdottir was fantastic as both Hella and Asa. She embodied the strength and determination of Hella’s character and the more subtle spiritual aspect of Asa. Ragnarsson was excellent of the partially paranoid government operative who wanted to support Hella’s war against the aluminum company. Siguroarson was amazing. I loved his character and presence in the film. He embodied the single well-entrenched farmer who loved the land he worked as well as the compassion for Hella’s mission. Estrada was wonderful in his role as a sort of an accidental tourist. Olafur Egilsson and Benedikt Erlingsson wrote a very original screenplay. Erlingsson directed this quirky film with aplomb, and the ending was perfect to the cause.

Overall: This film will stay with me as it was both enjoyable and pointedly purposeful.