Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Woman At War’ and ‘Black Lake’


‘WOMAN AT WAR’ (APPLE, GOOGLE PLAY, YOUTUBE)

Talk about unexpected achievements, “Woman At War” manages the near-impossible by offering up a feel-good movie about climate change, but perhaps that’s what you can expect from a film product of Iceland. Never a country to wallow in problems, the Icelandic outlook of “Woman At War” suggests that the way to attend to the big picture is not always as obvious as it looks, nor as rigid as some activists would have you think. And in many ways, embracing positive action in the name of intimate psychology is just as important as toppling giants.

With two roles played by Halldora Geirharosdottir — she starred in the Icelandic women in prison drama “Fangar” I reviewed in The Eagle a while back — “Woman At War” presents the two sides of the saving the world argument within its characters, identical twin sisters, though focusing on the efforts of Halla, who has become a homespun eco-terrorist, working to destroy the efforts of an multinational aluminum smelting plant that threatens the environment.

Geirharosdottir brings such a well-humored and devoted quality to Halla, and the film presents her adventures with a mix of infectious excitement and genuine, nail-biting tension. But it also gets under her skin, juxtaposing the inventive action chase scenes with introspective slices of her non-activist life, including intellectual battles with her twin sister over their world view that lay out the ideas the film is addressing into character roles that seem to take a side and sway you one way, but in the end provide a deeper analysis of the views discussed, one that takes into account the power of both. And director Benedikt Erlingsson manages to inject some amusing whimsy countering Geirharosdottir’s story’s sprawling philosophical aspect, especially with recurring visual jokes involving the soundtrack that provide some relief from tension.

In the end, “Woman At War” presents stark imagery about the oncoming global disaster of climate change that might dissuade you from feeling much hopefulness for the species of humankind, but will alternately offer you some well-deserved, and not at all false, rosiness in regard to intimate human interaction. As a film that delivers an insightful and complicated analysis of a big topic within an enjoyable, personable package, I have my doubts that 2019 will offer a better movie.


‘BLACK LAKE’ (SHUDDER, SUNDANCE)

Everyone likes a good ghost story and this Swedish series brings all the typical elements together to an abandoned ski lodge. A group of friends arrive for a short stay because one of them, stiff wealthy guy Johan (Filip Berg), has an interest in buying and reopening it. But strange things begin to happen almost immediately. There’s a new person in the group — Jessan, played with mysterious gusto by Aliette Opheim, who was so great in “Thicker Than Water” — and something is not right about her.

The more “not right” things get, the more most in the group are willing to blame on her mental health. But Johan’s girlfriend and our main hero for the series, Hanne (Sarah-Sofie Boussnina), has other suspicions and, connecting with a local boy, she starts to uncover the history of the lodge and retrace past events to the current unfolding nightmare.

All hell eventually breaks loose, with inter-group secrets revealed alongside those that the lodge, itself, holds, and the action becomes a fight for survival against unknown threats, as well as a challenge to come to terms with personal ghosts. Wrapping in this intimate horror with some specifically Scandinavian ones, including folklore and regional racism, “Black Lake” definitely offers a flavor of its own, especially in the way it portrays the supernatural in terms of the fringes of human perception.

There is a second season available, a prequel of sorts featuring one of the first season characters, but I highly recommend avoiding it. The first season stands on its own.


Originally published at https://www.berkshireeagle.com on June 21, 2019.

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