Thursday, April 16, 2020

Movie with Abe: A White, White Day

A White, White Day
Directed by Hlynur Palmason
Released April 17, 2020

The thriller genre denotes a film that, in some way or another, keeps its audiences on the edge of their seats as they anticipate a grim outcome and watch unfortunate ends befall those who should meet better fates. There exists a huge variety of tones and themes for such films, and each can look very different as a result. A thriller doesn’t require the presence of a villain or even a conflict, and some of the subtlest and most effective films build tension from a growing uncertainty created by a sense of dread of unknown origin or, worse still, that emerges from a seeming tranquility.

Ingimundur (Ingvar Sigurdsson) is the police chief in a small Icelandic town who spends most of his time working on the house he wants to build for his daughter and taking care of his young granddaughter Salka (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir). He meets with a counselor regularly who attempts to unpack the grief he feels over the death of his wife in an accident two years earlier, something he refuses to discuss and denies haunts him when confronted. Yet the questionable circumstances surrounding the accident have him caught in a loop, one that sends him down a dangerous route towards a breaking point.

This is a film that proceeds along slowly, opening with a disquieting tracking shot of a car traveling down a snowy road before veering off and over the edge of a cliff. Many scenes feature the house that Ingimundur is building seen from the same spot a distance away, refreshed each moment by a new sky and changed weather. When Ingimundur is on screen, he is the focus of attention, keeping his face unreadable as he faces questions he doesn’t want to answer, driving his car on the windy Icelandic roads, or running backwards while playing soccer. He’s gruff and antisocial, but there is evidently a layer of kindness buried underneath that comes out most when he dotes on the impressionable and precocious Salka.

Sigurdsson delivers a nuanced performance that anchors this film and showcases Ingimundur as a man overcome with loneliness who simply keeps moving forward because that’s what he believe he needs to do and to provide something to leave behind for those he loves. This Toronto International Film Festival selection, which served as Iceland’s Oscar submission last year for Best International Film, is similar in pacing to Norway’s yet-to-be-released “Out Stealing Horses,” yet the execution and particularly the purposeful cinematography here work more effectively. It’s hardly an urgent, pulse-pounding film, but instead one that gradually establishes its narrative and purposes.

“A White, White Day” will premiere tomorrow, April 17th, as part of Film Movement’s Virtual Cinema. To watch the film, purchase virtual tickets through participating theaters here.


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