A White, White Day

 

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An interestingly offbeat drama containing two outstanding performances.

 
White, White Day, A  

Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir

 

The Icelandic filmmaker Hlynur Pálmason, whose second feature this is, impresses as a writer/director of real individuality. Even so, there are times when his approach can seem self-indulgent and off-centre. Because of that, regardless of the fact that it makes him a name to note, A White, White Day comes across as a work sustained by the admirable performance of its lead actor, Ingvar Sigurdsson best known to us for his role in Of Horses and Men (2013). Here he plays a widower named Ingimundur whose life has been shattered by the death of his wife in a car crash (that incident taking place on a road enshrouded in fog makes for an effective opening scene). What we now see is the impact that this event continues to have on him emotionally. He lives all alone in a house that he is in the process of slowly building and the person he sees most is his 8-year-old granddaughter, Salka (Ída Mekkin Hlynsdóttir). This is possible because his busy daughter (Elma Stefania Agustsdóttir) lives nearby with her husband (Haraldur Stefansson). However, some two years on from the death Ingimundur still needs weekly therapy sessions and even now no longer works as a cop in the local police station.

 

Descriptions of Pálmason's film known to me before I saw it did not hold back in revealing that Ingimundur comes to suspect that his late wife had had an adulterous affair and he allows this possibility to obsess him. That is, indeed, central to what this tale, at once a study in bereavement and an investigation into adultery, has at its heart. However, so much of the film passes before this really becomes clear that I almost feel that I am disclosing too much to any potential viewer. Yet, even if viewed with that knowledge, the film seems to lack a clear character and purpose until we reach its second half.

 

What holds us and encourages our interest is the wonderful naturalness of Sigurdsson's performance admirably matched as it is by the child actress playing Salka. Almost at odds with that one finds touches of stylisation and symbolism in the film. They start off at the outset with a written quote referencing the title as a description of the condition when whiteness blends earth and sky so that the dead can talk to the living. But the film is not ghostly in the way that this may imply and the stylisation when it emerges visually comes in such passages as a highly underlined late scene of Ingimundur and the child walking through a tunnel and in a sequence in which the camera follows a falling rock all the way down to the sea. If some earlier scenes bemuse as to their purpose (a bizarre episode shows children looking at a strange TV show touching on the theme of death), later ones imply a significance inadequately explained. So, despite a final scene that adopts a style of its own but nevertheless adeptly suggests a step forward for Ingimundur, I do find A White, White Day interesting rather than satisfying. But the acting is splendid, the atmosphere strong and, however mixed my responses to Pálmason's work here, his sense of cinema and of how much images can convey make one keen to know what he will do next.

 

Original title: Hvítur, hvítur dagur.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Ingvar Sigurdsson, Ída Mekkin Hlynsdóttir, Elma Stefania Agustsdóttir, Haraldur Stefansson, Björn Ingi Hilmarsson, Sara Dögg Ásgeirsdóttir, Laufey Eliasdóttir, Arnmundur Ernst Björnsson.

 

Dir Hlynur Pálmason, Pro Anton Máni Svansson, Screenplay Hlynur Pálmason, Ph Maria von Hausswolff, Pro Des Hulda Helgadóttir, Ed Julius Krebs Damsbo, Music Edmund Finnis, Costumes Nina Grenlund.

 

Danish Film Institute/Film i Väst/Glassriver/Snowglade Films-Peccadillo Pictures.
109 mins. Iceland/Denmark/Sweden. 2019. Rel: 3 July 2020. Cert. 15.