There is just something about Scandinavian cinema that to me makes it stand out from what the rest of the world is producing at the moment.
For some reason Scandinavian filmmakers are constantly making movies that are usually gritty, normally on the alternative side and are always well written and engrossing. That is certainly the case with director Hlynur Palmason’s (Winter Brothers) brand new film A White, White Day – a film that has an artistic edge but packs such an almighty emotional punch that it should be in consideration when award season swings around.
The film centres around an older police officer in a remote Icelandic village named Ingimundur (Ingvar Sigurdsson – Everest) who is currently in a deep emotional slump caused by the recent death of his wife in a car accident. Ingimundur now spends his days casually playing soccer with the local men and looking after his Grand-daughter Salka (newcomer Ida Mekkin Hlynsdottir) who seems to frequently be in the way of her mother’s new life.
Despite seemingly being estranged from his own daughter, Ingimundur is always there for Salka and is happily spending his time renovating a run-down home in the hope that it can give Salka a new, more comfortable life. Things start to turn sour though when Ingimundur starts to believe that his wife was having an affair with a local man before her death.
I’ll admit that I felt strange while watching A White, White Day. I could feel that I was loving this film for the reason that the people around me were hating it. As a director, Palmason uses long-lingering, and sometimes time-lapse shots as a way to show that nothing really changes in the quiet Icelandic town that the film is set in, other than the display of time and the seasons. And while I sat there engrossed in the beauty of these shots, with the crinkling of chocolate wrappers and the frequent rest-room visits around me, I could sense that others were not sharing the same view of things that I was.
For me though, A White, White Day is one of the most harshly beautiful and engaging movies that you will see in 2020. While at times slow, the film does have a strong narrative and there is no way an audience member will find themselves ‘lost’ and unable to work out what is happening despite Palmason’s frequent side journeys into artistic cinema. As I mentioned, the film is slow at times but the suspense level is lifted immensely once Ingimundur starts to piece together the supposed truth about his wife and the ‘perhaps’ guilty local, especially when you realise that a confrontation between the two is inevitable.
While I give a lot of credit to Palmason for the way that the film looks and plays out, I also have to give credit to Ingvar Sigurdsson for his performance as Ingimundar. He puts in a natural and dramatic performance throughout the film, but it is the scenes where Ingimundar brutality clashes with his uniformed colleagues that show why Sigurdsson should be considered for ever major acting award going around. These sequences are going to stay with me for a long time and are right up there as some of the most powerful scenes I have experienced on the big screen.
A White, White Day is slow at times but it is made memorable by a gritty storyline that never lets up and a powerful performance by a leading man who brings a harsh realism to the character he is depicting. This is one bright spark in an otherwise dull 2020 cinema landscape.