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Director: Benedikt Erlingsson
Writer: Benedikt Erlingsson, Ólafur Egilsson
Cast: Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Jóhann Sigurðarson, Juan Camillo Roman Estrada, Jörundur Ragnarsson
Part of: surprise movie at the Viennale
Seen on: 4.11.2018
Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) spends her free time as an environmental activist, waging war against an aluminium plant in her area. Of course, nobody can know about her activities and nobody would suspect the quiet choir director anyway. But then Halla hears that the adoption application she made many years ago was finally approved and there is a little Ukranian girl waiting for her. With authorities steadily closing in on her, Halla has to make some decisions as getting caught would mean having to give up the adoption.
Woman at War has its funny moments, but some of the jokes were uncomfortable (and not in a good way) and it was a little too predictable to really take off for me.
Woman at War is not a bad film, and there were quite a few things I enjoyed about it – especially the way the music was included, having an Ukrainian band just showing up and playing in the background of the scenes (although the joke admittedly got a little tired after a while). Halla’s activism was also pretty awesome and set in scene in a proper action style that underscored it.
But the central conflict for Halla – motherhood or activism – was hard to swallow for me. I am aware that “women can have it all” is not necessarily the feminist call to arms it set out to be, but at the same time, positioning motherhood and activism as mutually exclusive is more harmful than anything else.
I was also suspicious of the running gag that a Spanish tourist constantly gets the blame for Halla’s activities, because he is darker and travelling alone. I mean, on the one hand, yes, definitely what would happen – pointing to outsiders first. But on the other hand it just felt like this comment was reduced to a cheap shot and didn’t quite have the impact it should have had. Equally uncomfortable for me was the fact that at the end of the film, prison is seen as interchangeable with a retreat in a monastery or something, and that is definitely not it.
Nevertheless, there were enjoyable moments and funny bits, even if the film in its entire development was so predictable (up to and including the last big twist) that I had no problems following it, despite falling asleep a little bit in the middle.
Summarizing: It’s nice enough, but no more than that.