A lesson in eco-filmmaking from Iceland

Woman at War is about the fight of a woman against an aluminium plant

Stock footage of sloganeering, preachy lines, repetitive tone and structure — films highlighting environmental issues often fall into this rut that even those who broadly agree with the message tend to not fully savour what they see on screen.

Woman at War is not really about an issue, rather it is about a fight, yet how it delightfully drives clear of those easy paths is instructive for others trying their hand at that genre.

Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson, the film, Iceland’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards, has at its centre the David vs. Goliath fight of a 50-year-old woman against the Rio Tinto aluminium plant, which has been wreaking havoc on the mountainous regions of the country.

The film was screened on Saturday as part of the World Cinema section of the 23rd International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK).

Halla (Halldora Geirharosdottir) is to the outside world a choir director, but unknown to them all, she is the ‘mountain woman’ who is singlehandedly sabotaging the power lines to the plant, prompting the government and the corporate to unleash counter-measures and counter-propaganda.

She uses a simple, primitive bow and arrow to achieve this.

Inspiring her are Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, with her using the latter’s mask in a riveting sequence when Halla shoots down a surveillance drone flying above a vast, barren landscape .

Musicians as a metaphor

A constant at the background is the majestic, but punishing, Icelandic landscape and a band of musicians, playing the background track live on screen, in what could also be read as a nod to the silent era, when musicians played live in the theatre.

Here though, they also have a role to play with their expressions too, with the percussions matching each of Halla’s steps.

While she is fighting the bigger battle to save the environment, an application that she had submitted long ago to adopt a child gets processed, landing her in a dilemma.

Also making matters interesting is an identical twin of Halla’s who is on quite a different mission, diametrically opposite to Halla’s — giving inner peace to the world through yoga. The final sequence of Halla with her adopted child walking through a flooded landscape strikes a chord with the Kerala audience, for whom such scenes are too fresh in memory. It also speaks eloquently to everyone, except climate change deniers.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 3:45:58 AM |

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