The latest film from writer / director Hlynur Palmason, A White, White Day, unfolds the fragility and madness of grief in a raw and brutally honest portrayal of a man attempting to come to terms with the loss of his wife and the discovery of her secrets.
The film begins eerily with an Icelandic proverb that suggests that on days that are so white that the sky meets the earth, the dead can talk to the living. It then follows a car on its journey through winding roads and fog so dense that all seems white, seemingly innocent, until the car misjudges a turn and breaks through the barrier and flips down the hillside, with the audience unsure of who is inside.
Slowly, Ingimundur, played by Ingvar E. Sigurðsson, is introduced and the film begins to follow his journey of renovating an isolated house on the outskirts of a small Iceland town. Piece by piece the audience is handed more clues and insight into Ingimundur’s life and the driver of the car, his late wife. It flits between scenes of him taking care of and doting on his granddaughter, Salka, his uncomfortable interactions with old colleagues at the local police station, hostile and jilted appointments with a grievance counsellor and his paranoid observations of a man he becomes aware of after being given back a box of his wife’s belongings.
As Ingimundur’s isolation, grief and paranoia begin to spiral out of control, so does his behaviour and in moments of anguish he begins lashing out at Salka and looks almost certain to enact fatal revenge on his wife’s lover.
The film is full of unbearably close and intimate moments, coupled with long and awkward spaces between dialogue and plot progression, which is a talent and testament to, not a critique of, Palmason’s writing and directing. It is rare that something so honest, devoid of unnecessary hyperbole, overworked drama and quick plot progression graces the silver screen. The frankness of the way the characters deal with life’s bigger conundrums is also foreign, but a breath of fresh air, albeit an icy one.
Sigurðsson portrays Ingimundur, the grieving widow, stoic grandfather and misguided ex police officer with an almost uncomfortable realness. The character brings to the screen a myriad of toxic masculine traits almost in conflict with an innate softness and deeply emotionally aware moments. Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir as Salka, brings the simple, innocent and brash sweeter moments and it is through watching their relationship that you gain full insight into Ingimundur’s complex character.
The film is slow moving and at times disjointed, for some this will be a detraction and for others, it is entirely why the film will resonate. Its offbeat, unsuspecting moments are what enthral the audience, providing they’ve paid attention in the lulls. By not following a necessarily linear story, however, the film leaves many aspects unanswered or vaguely alluded to. No part more so than the final outcome of Ingimundur.
The convincing performances, breathtaking scenery captured in an understated eeriness by cinematographer Maria von Hausswolff, and the sheer humanness of A White, White Day told through Palmason’s eyes transport you to an isolated little Icelandic town where perhaps, just perhaps, the veil opens in the fog.
Screening at Palace Nova East End Cinemas as part of the Volvo Scandinavian film festival from July 18.
This film is subtitled.
Written by Sarah Burley