Scandinavian Film Festival 2019 Review: A White, White Day

Who: Written and directed by Hlynur Pálmason

What: A White, White Day (part of the Scandinavian Film Festival 2019)

When: 17 July – 7 August (Adelaide), see website for session times.

Where: Place Nova Eastend and Prospect Cinemas

View an extract from the film.

A White, White Day is the centrepiece of this year’s Scandinavian Film Festival, with lead Ingvar E. Sigurdsson having won Best Actor at Cannes earlier this year, and director Hlynur Pálmason having previously received numerous awards for his debut, Winter Brothers. The film and performances are memorable and poetic; probably deserving of this acclaim. An Icelandic proverb is referenced in the title. The saying suggests that on days so white that sky and earth become indistinct, the dead can communicate with the living. Indeed, in A White, White Day the lines between life and death have been skillfully blurred, as the existence and passing of one woman lingers in memories, spurring volatile emotion and behaviour in the present.

Sigurdsson plays retired policeman Ingimundur with impressive nuance, repressed anger and grief brewing under a hardened exterior to breaking point. He is still struggling to come to terms with the death of his wife, 2 years prior, as well as his retirement from the tiny local police station. He regularly visits the station to check things on his old desk and catch up with his old colleagues over coffee. There’s an underlying sense of frustration Ingimundur has with his present life, most apparent in his mandatory, tedious appointments with a grief counsellor. He derives fleeting moments of joy and a sense of meaning from spending time with his 8-year-old granddaughter (played with beautiful spirit by Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir) and from renovating a house on the outskirts of the rural Icelandic town for his daughter’s family. The suspense begins to build when Ingimundur discovers that not long before her death, his wife was having an affair with a local man. His behaviour in trying to pursue and confront this man becomes increasingly violent and unpredictable.

The tension and bleakness of the film’s setting and themes are contrasted with cathartic moments of dark humour and absurdity. The focus on the changing light, weather and landscape around the small house, backdropped by mountains and overlooking horse paddocks and a frigid bay, hints at the circle of life and cruelty of time; forever soldiering forwards. Other visual metaphors and play with montage, sound and dark twists on the mundane bring forth the illogical and uncontrollable nature of human emotion, especially when linked to love and death. I found this film refreshingly understated (yet it held my attention consistently) and enjoyed the believability and tenderness of the human emotion and relationships it portrayed.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Katerina Grypma

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