Hlynur Palmason’s follow-up to ‘Winter Brothers’ is about a former policeman in a small Icelandic town
Dir/scr: Hlynur Palmason. Iceland-Denmark-Sweden. 2019. 109mins.
A taciturn former policeman in a small Icelandic enclave grows more complex before our eyes in the visually arresting and emotionally rewarding A White, White Day. Crusty widower Ingimundur (Ingvar E. Sigurðsson, excellent) channels his grief into renovating a house whose isolated location shows off nature posing in a cycling-through-the-seasons medley of changing climate conditions in ever-exquisite light. Ingimundur loved his late wife unconditionally and has little patience for the grief counselor he is obliged to see once a week. But while going through a box of his wife’s things, his cop instincts kick in and the already cranky man starts behaving erratically – although there’s definitely a startling method to his madness.
Ingimundur is a fascinating character, splendidly portrayed by Ingvar E. Sigurðsson
Writer-director Hlynur Palmason (Locarno prize-winner Winter Brothers) delivers a leisurely but never boring tale of hidden feelings percolating in a splendidly varied landscape. From sharp straight cuts to uncomfortably long awkward moments, a perfectly controlled sense of place permeates every frame. Distributors of quality art house fare should investigate. The film’s title refers to an Icelandic proverb suggesting that on days so “white” that the earth meets the sky, the dead can communicate with those still living.
The horizon-confounding whiteness the proverb evokes seems nigh as the opening sequence follows a car on a winding road surrounded by snow and fog. It feels as if something bad is probably going to happen, and it does. Ingimundur dotes on his granddaughter, Salka (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir). A true child of the outdoors, the girl is not shy or squeamish — when a fresh salmon in a plastic bag turns out to still be alive, she gives it two hearty whacks on a table. Ingimundur still has a key to the small police station where he’d probably be working had he not taken his wife’s death so hard, and he helps himself to a few items he shouldn’t. His actions are definitely leading somewhere, quite possibly in the realm of things one is better off not knowing.
In several instances when we think fatal harm has been done, we’re proven wrong. There’s what seems to be a MacGuffin: Where, exactly, is that bank of video monitors trained on the icy local roads and is anybody watching what they show? A flesh and blood catalogue of ways to be masculine, from tender with his granddaughter to robustly no-nonsense with a weapon, Ingimundur is a fascinating character, splendidly portrayed.
The tug of the landscape in this film is both internal and external in a manner that would be hard to pull off in a dense urban setting. A pleasingly off-kilter string score is a plus. The manner in which sounds are treated – from a ringing telephone to the downhill trajectory of a boulder bouncing down a hill and going ker-plunk in a river — is especially communicative.
Production companies: Join Motion Pictures, Snowglobe, Hob AB
International sales: New Europe Film Sales (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Producer: Anton Máni Svansson
Production design: Hulda Helgadóttir
Editor: Julius Krebs Damsbo
Cinematography: Maria von Hausswolff
Music: Edmund Finnis
Main cast: Ingvar E. Sigurðsson, Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir