Review: ‘Woman At War’ is quirky environmental film from Iceland
Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir in “Woman At War,” a Magnolia Pictures release. | Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

With a deceptive lightness of touch, co-writer and director Benedikt Erlingsson deals memorably with the serious threat to the environment in Woman at War.

Set in Iceland, it centers on 50-year-old Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) who declares a one-woman war on the local aluminum industry in a bid to protect her beloved highlands.

She starts off small-scale by causing power cuts but as she grows bolder she slowly progresses to industrial sabotage, which brings the negotiations between the Icelandic government and the corporation building an aluminum smelter to a halt.

Halla is superbly played by Geirharðsdóttir — she also plays her hippy twin sister — and she is no stereotypical environmental activist. She’s a normal, above-suspicion middle-class woman who during the day is in charge of a choir.

But during her time off she is a passionate activist who’s inspired by Gandhi and Mandela in the planning and execution of her next assault.

In the meantime, the authorities keep apprehending an angry young Spanish tourist who looks the part and is always in the wrong place at the wrong time — a highly amusing running gag through this very quirky film.

The action is punctuated by a dramatic soundtrack which, as the camera pans out, is seen to be provided by a three-man band. They follow Halla around on her exploits, accompanied by three female singers in what’s presumably traditional Icelandic dress who act as a kind of Greek chorus.

Truly bizarre, but they add intrigue and whimsy to this enthralling eco thriller whose plot thickens when Halla learns that her application to adopt a child years earlier has been successful and that there is a four-year-old girl waiting for her in the Ukraine, thus dividing her loyalties.

Erlingsson delivers a surreal and unforgettable film on the environment which ends on a powerful and haunting note. Well worth seeing.

Woman at War

Starring Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes  Languages: Icelandic, English, Ukrainian, Spanish

Official trailer

Morning Star


Maria Duarte
Maria Duarte

London based film reviewer.