Woman at War is a comedy, thriller, and drama from director Benedikt Erlingsson which tells of a middle-aged Reykjavik choir conductor, Halla, who is also a secret eco-warrior who sabotages her country’s electricity grid to save the Icelandic countryside from industrial pollution with only a bow and arrow. Halla, a 50-year-old independent woman (portrayed by Halldora Geirharosdottir), leads a double life as a passionate environmental activist.
Known to others only by her alias “The Woman of the Mountain,” Halla secretly wages a one-woman-war on the local aluminum industry to prevent it from disfiguring her country. As she flees across the hills pursued by the authorities, music from a small combo literally plays in the background and we see three musicians who are playing the score when she stops to catch her breath. We see David Thor Jonsson as the pianist/accordion player, Magnus Trygvason Eliassen as the drummer and Omar Guojonsson as the sousaphone player following her across hillsides, rooftops and into her home providing the film’s score.
The mild-mannered eco-terrorist hides from the drones, infrared cameras and helicopters full of cops who try to track her down. She risks all she has to protect the highlands of Iceland. As Halla’s actions grow bolder, from petty vandalism to outright industrial sabotage, she succeeds in pausing the negotiations between the Icelandic government and the corporation building – a new aluminum smelter. But right as she begins planning her biggest and boldest operation yet, she receives an unexpected letter that changes everything. Her application to adopt a four-year-old Ukrainian girl has finally been accepted and there is a little girl waiting for her in Ukraine.
As Halla prepares to abandon her role as saboteur and savior of the Highlands to fulfill her dream of becoming a mother, she decides to plot one final attack on the aluminum industry.
The movie also stars Johann Siguroarson as Sveinbjorn. Woman at War director, Benedikt Erlingsson also wrote the screenplay with Olafur Egilsson. Erlingsson is also one of the producers. The 49-year-old Icelandic auteur born in Reykjavik, Iceland, won a Cannes Film Festival for SACD Prize in 2018 for Woman at War. His early credits include playing the role of Mr. Krotschl in the feature film Tears of Stone.
Woman at War is Erlingsson’s second feature-length fiction following his eccentric debut film Of Horses and Men. In Woman at War, the screenwriter deals with the destruction of the environment, the degradation of politics into a sideshow and the yearning for human connection. He is proud to say that his new film has “no misery, no violence, no death, not even a gun, and no sex.” Erlingsson himself is also an activist who once chained himself to a whaling boat to keep it from sailing out to hunt.
He added, “Everything you do really has to have some meaning. You have to have something to say. This subject is really complicated, and there are a lot of gray areas, and it touches many ideas. So the challenge was to really make an accessible, mainstream blockbuster film about this. An art-house blockbuster on a very complicated issue. Is that possible, in a feel-good film?”