Iceland | Denmark | Sweden 2019
Opening February 20, 2020
Directed by: Hlynur Pálmason
Writing credits: Hlynur Pálmason
Principal actors: Ingvar E. Sigurðsson, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Bjorn Ingi Hilmarsson, Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir, Laufey Elíasdóttir
Icelandic writer-director Hlynur Pálmason’s psychologically tense film shrouds viewers in its supernatural whiteness, and wide-range of myths, sagas, and superstitions. Plus, in the personal torment of the protagonist, Ingimundur, played by Ingvar Sigurðsson. Pálmason’s mise-en-scène in his fifth film integrates Iceland’s harsh textures and imagery, suggesting an otherness as superstitious as a “huldufólk,” and remoteness. While Ingimundur’s reflective inner restive rhythm surges, and then peaks, a restorative power washes in.
Still mourning his wife’s (Sara Dögg Ásgeirsdóttir) untimely death and on leave from work, Ingimundur regains equanimity building an out-of-the-way house for his daughter (Elma Stefania Agustsdottir) and minding granddaughter Salka (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir). His feelings for Salka intrinsically provide categorical protection as events unfold. Unpacking a box, he makes a disturbing discovery that uncovers disbelief, and then confusion. At soccer practices a neighbor (Hilmir Snær Guðnason) draws his attention. As suspicion intensifies, Ingimundur struggles to control a rage that obsessively seems to dominate his decisions. Which in turn frustrate and annoy former colleagues (Arnmundur Ernst Björnsson, Sigurður Sigurjónsson). But when his actions become recklessly extreme, he endangers everyone, including himself.
Maria von Hausswolff’s textured cinematography plays a key role in telling this story; often, what is important is lingered over, or just out of frame or in the background. Von Hausswolff’s camera measuredly traverses the story’s landscape, watchful yet slightly secretive. Julius Krebs Damsbo’s editing is tightly relaxed, and Edmund Finnis’ music implies rather than defines. Ancient superstitions abound, from China, Ireland, and Persia with its three white (fortunate) days every lunar month, to Iceland where on a “white day” the living and dead meet when a snow-white landscape blends heavens and earth. Scooping awards at film festivals in Cannes, Hamptons, Montréal, Torino, etc., Weiser, Weisser Tag (Hvítur, Hvítur Dagur) is a contender for the Nordic Council Film Prize, and European Film Award, and screened at Filmfest Hamburg 2019. Icelandic with German subtitles, 109 minutes (.)