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A White White Day: London Film Festival Review 2019

White White Day

Loss and stifled emotion fill the screen in this beautiful, slow-paced story of a bereaved man falling apart.

When you hear about an Icelandic film featuring death and the police, naturally you’re going to assume it’s another high-class Nordic Noir feature.

But wait. A White White Day is something different.  The policeman in question (the always compelling Ingvar Sigurðsson) is the bereaved party here; it is his wife who has died in an accident on a white, mist-covered road in the remote Icelandic mountains. Grieving the loss, Ingimundur learns something about his wife that makes coming to terms with events even more difficult for him.

A White White Day makes plentiful use of static camera shots which serve to highlight the bleak beauty of rural Iceland. The wind howls, snow swirls and horses graze, but little else changes or moves on. Ingimundur is the same. He tries to keep things going by playing football with the boys, spending time with family, renovating an old house.  But grief is gnawing at him from the inside out and his method of dealing with it leads him to extreme actions.

The camera follows Sigurðsson often, cutting others out of the scene that they are still a part of. Our eye follows Ingimundur during a wind-swept football match at the water’s edge for example. We know there are other men very close and we can hear them, but by remaining only with Ingimundur, tracking him backwards and forwards and in the forceful wind, his isolation is all the more obvious. It’s exactly what grief feels like.

As the cracks begin to appear in his shell, Sigurðsson – who usually portrays calm, stoic characters – gets to show us that he can do much more, and the last long take on his face almost challenges Timothée Chalamet’s fireplace crying at the end of Call Me By Your Name.

For atmosphere and a study of loss and bottled up emotion, it’s worth sticking with the slower pace.

A White White Day is Iceland’s submission for the 2020 Academy Awards ‘Best International Feature Film’ category, and screens as part of the London Film Festival.

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