It sometimes feels like Palmason is being a bit self-indulgent with his slow pace, but Ingvar Sigurdsson keeps the film grounded, and ends it with such a devastating, powerful final shot that it alone erases most criticisms. It may take a bit longer than it needed to get there, but the destination packs a wallop.
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There’s a moving study within the film of a man in emotional paralysis learning to redirect his love from the past to the present, but it’s too often obscured by a muted revenge yarn that’s no less banal because it’s tastefully directed.
The result is an emotionally wringing film, equally effective in the narrative and tone-poem departments.
To ascribe easy labels to A White, White Day — to call it a study of masculine rage or a portrait of a community perched at the edge of the world — is to risk bleeding it of its elemental poetry.
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 film’s true power is elemental, rooted in weather conditions that all but erase the distinction between land and sky, and in the inky darkness of a tunnel traversed by one haggard, trudging figure whose weary body intermittently blocks a sliver of light barely visible at its far end.
In light of my own experience with the film, I recommend the following. See it twice: a virgin viewing, simply to take in the strange counterintuitive way the story unfolds, and then again, with a bit of distance, knowing where the journey is headed, so that you might fully appreciate the genius of its construction. I’m convinced that A White, White Day is the work of one of the most important voices of this emerging generation, arriving at a stage where we have yet to learn his language.
I didn’t fall for the surfeit of mood manipulation that opens A White, White Day. All that time-lapse stuff and its ilk is a nice contrast to the shock and action that takes over the third act. They’re just a very dull way of managing that.
As darkly comic as it is foreboding–and boasting an outrageously rich and nuanced central performance from the great Icelandic actor Ingvar Sigurdsson, who plays the larger than life Ingimunder, a man more than capable of living up to the scale of his own name–A White, White Day takes the tropes of a psychological thriller but presents them with a virtuosic and austere visual flare.
Palmason boldly risks audience disenfranchisement by pushing his disturbing story to unexpected lengths dramatically and stylistically, thereby winning a creative wrestling match with a potentially intransigent narrative.