The other day we went to see “Woman at War at the local arthouse. Shazzam! Under the façade of a respectable, middle-aged chorus director lurks Halla, a ninja eco-saboteur toppling electric pylons with a bow and arrow. Pursued across the treeless Icelandic highlands by an evil miniature drone, Halla shoots it with an arrow, hauls it down and smashes it to pieces with a rock. The audience is too hip to actually cheer, but you can feel the vibe.
She’s doing this to make Iceland unattractive to foreign heavy industry predators drooling over its unspoiled natural resources and aching to install their climate-changing junk. She climbs to the roof of a government building and flings out a thousand copies of her manifesto: “We are the last generation that can stop our war against the Earth.” The passers-by grab the papers and take selfies.
The government, who’s ready to sell off Iceland to Chinese investors, responds by portraying Halla as a terrorist threat to democracy. Not surprisingly, the movie is controversial in Iceland, according to the star Halladora Geirhardsdottir. “We all have an activist inside of us that isn’t active,” she says.
But despite the serious theme, it’s basically a comedy with touches of magic realism. A semi-imaginary trio playing tuba, drums and keyboard follows Halla on her quest, like the encouraging spirits in “The Magic Flute.” A hapless Cantinflas-like Spaniard on a bicycle keeps getting arrested by mistake. At one point Halla foils the heat-sensor surveillance plane by hiding under the corpse of a long-dead sheep. And thanks to Iceland’s comprehensive DNA database, the high-tech police analyze a drop of blood and triumphantly arrest Halla’s flakey yoga-teacher twin sister as the perp. (Identical twins have the same DNA). “Namaste,” says the sister, bowing to the brutal-looking jail guard shoving her into a cell. “That means I salute your true inner self.”
Meanwhile, Halla is in the Ukraine adopting a war-traumatized orphan. Who says a movie can’t have everything?