Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir stars as Halla, a community choir director who secretly wages a one-woman war on the local aluminum industry in the film Halla, playing the Salmar Classic on Saturday, June 1. (File photo)

Eco-terrorist confronted by motherhood in Woman at War

Cinemaphile by Joanne Sargent

Halla is an independent and unassuming middle-aged single woman with a quiet routine and a job directing an adult choir in Reykjavik.

Not someone in a million years is she someone you might suspect to have a secret double life as a passionate environmental activist, waging a one-woman war on the local aluminum industry. Her double life becomes further complicated when she’s confronted with a difficult choice. This is the story behind the compelling Icelandic film Woman At War, our last Film Society movie until the fall.

We meet Halla as her eco-warrior alias, “The Woman of the Mountain,” shooting out the power grid for an aluminum factory and then taking down surveillance drones and dodging security helicopters while evading capture. Then she disappears like a ghost; her identity is unknown to all but a few. Halla is driven to be the anti-industrial activist because she sees time quickly running out for our species and she’s fighting to protect the pristine Icelandic environment and help save the planet from impending climate breakdown. Her actions have become increasingly bold and riskier, but are now made questionable by an unexpected development in her personal life.

It comes in the form of a letter that could change her life. It informs her that the adoption she applied for four years ago has finally been approved. She’s to become the mother of a little girl from Ukraine, which causes her to consider her notions of motherhood and civic duty. Should she continue her eco terrorism on behalf of Mother Earth which could lead to imprisonment, or abandon her activism to embrace the quiet joy of child-rearing? Should she raise a child or change the world? Or can she do both?

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Woman at War is an intelligent drama that may find the audience torn: some admiring Halla, seeing her as serving the greater good, while others might see her as woefully misguided. It’s a thoughtful look at the ethics of extremism and appropriate response to environmental and existential threats. But mostly, it’s about the indomitable spirit of one woman having to make hard choices. It’s an original, thrilling and darkly funny film with a strong message.

Woman At War plays at 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 1 at the Salmar Classic. Because this is our last movie until September, there will be treats and surprises. Look for our programs in late August as the Shuswap Film Society movies start up again after Labour Day weekend. Have a great summer!


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