Edfilmfest 2020 Review: A White, White Day (Hvítur, hvítur dagur)

Screening as part of EdFilmFest @ Home, Icelandic slow-burn thriller A White, White Day (Hvítur, hvítur dagur) will be getting its UK release via Peccadillo Pictures later in the year. This complex character piece from writer-director Hlynur Palmason sees a retired police officer cope with the news that his recently deceased wife had been having an affair.

Ingvar Sigurdsson stars as off duty police officer Ingimundur living in a remote Icelandic town. Haunted by the death of his wife in a car accident, Ingimundur begins to unravel his wife’s secrets, juggling his own fragile mental state and putting his relationship with granddaughter in jeopardy.

Palmason’s direction is slow and restrained, allowing us to soak up the rich earthy atmosphere of the Icelandic setting and the somewhat mundane everyday realities of Ingimundur’s widowed life. Opening with a lingering bird’s eye view shot of Ingimundur’s wife’s car carefully making its journey along snowy roads, before veering off the road – A White, White Day, then proceeds to capture Ingimundur’s rural home in exterior shots exploring the changing seasons. Time has passed, but Ingimundur’s mental wounds have not been healed, as we quickly find out.

A complex turn from Ingvar Sigurdsson captures multiple facets of the character – from the humanity shown in his tender relationship with his granddaughter, to his frustration and clamming up when faced with his weekly psychiatrist appointments. Physically somewhat imposing, Ingimundur becomes a further intimidating figure particularly as he begins to unravel more of his deceased wife’s secrets, struggling to cope with the complicated feelings of betrayal and hurt – as well as his expected grief. The end result is a tirade of violence and aggression.

Palmason ramps up the tension throughout, as he explores Ingimundur’s angry descent and inability to repress his rage. This leads to a masterfully executed, dramatically charged final crescendo that sees the film veer into full dramatic thriller territory. Yet, there is an additional layer of skill interweaved in A White, White Day as it discreetly explores these events through the eyes of Salka (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir) – his granddaughter, often present during Ingimundur’s outbursts. This adds an additional dramatic impact with an innocent child dragged into her grandfather’s troubling mental descent.

Palmason’s quiet observant gaze adds a powerful atmosphere to the film – for example, a scene which is comprised of close-ups from the car wreckage (a burst tyre, seaweed over the car window, etc) or a sequence of a bolder falling down the cliff (showcasing the almighty descent faced by Ingimundur’s wife’s car as it tumbled down the cliff) – are two of the film’s most impactful. There is a quiet and uneasy atmosphere of tension bristling and brooding throughout A White, White Day.

A White, White Day is Available 27 June – 29 June as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2020, exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema. For more details check here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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