Iceland’s Oscar Candidate at ZFF

Icelandic cinema does not make many films a year, but its titles are growing in prominence at film festivals, oftentimes garnering awards and honours. One such already acknowledged work will be shown in ZFF’s main competition. Woman at War is a comedy about a 50-year-old choir mistress: by day she is a pillar of the local Icelandic community, and by night an environmental terrorist at a secret war against the local aluminium industry. However, the fearless warrior for the preservation of Iceland’s pristine virgin landscape will have to reshuffle her priorities when her adoption request is granted.

The film premiered at the Critics’ Week in Cannes, winning a best script award. After festivals in Haifa, Hamburg and Melbourne, this successful action comedy became Iceland’s Oscar candidate and one of the three finalists for LUX Prize, presented by the European Parliament for the promotion of European cinema to titles focusing on burning political and social issues in Europe.

This film is another quirky comeback by director Benedikt Erlingsson, one of the most acknowledged Icelandic actors and stage directors. He starred in the comedy The Boss of It All (2006) by Lars von Trier, and Rúnar Rúnarsson’s Volcano (2011). His debut Of Horses and Men also represented Iceland in the Oscar run, garnering over 20 international awards, including a special mention at ZFF in 2014. Erlingsson won the best director award in Tokio and the best debut director in San Sebastian.

His debut, literally translated as ‘the horse inside us’, is a visually stunning rural romance about the human in horses and the horselike in humans. The captivating beauty of Icelandic landscape serves as a backdrop of human weaknesses from an unexpected animalistic point of view and with a healthy dose of dark humour. Erlingsson’s second film Woman at War also allures with a masterfully told tale of man and nature, this time with more emotional depth and stronger political views.