In a small, remote Icelandic town, an off-duty police officer named Ingimundur (Ingvar Sigurdsson) begins to suspect a local man of having had an affair with his wife. She died in a car accident a couple of years ago. Gradually Ingimundur’s grief and determination to find out the truth turns to obsession and fury.
Part family drama, part murder mystery, part thriller, ‘A White, White Day’ plays out unconventionally and, as the second feature from writer-director Hlynur Palmason, is assured in its distinct narrative trajectory and style. As with other examples of European cinema, it takes its time, but as with the best examples of European cinema, you don't care, because you're totally enraptured in these characters, story and visuals.
Opening the film is an intriguing sequence of shots that indicate the passing of time as Ingimundur builds a house for his daughter Elín (Elma Stefania Agustsdottir), his granddaughter Salka (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir) and Elín’s boyfriend Stefan (Haraldur Stefansson). There’s an ambiguity as to the familial and community relationships around our protagonist that have you intrigued from the get-go. Even the horses that surround the house Ingimundur is building bring an ambience all their own. You could cut its taut tension with a knife. The film recalls such works of Michael Haneke as ‘Caché’ (‘Hidden’).
There are a couple of surreal moments, for example, when Salka laughs maniacally as she beats a salmon to death, and a horse dines on the aftermath of a party. But it’s the smaller, personal moments that connect with the audience the most, particularly when it comes to the close, tender relationship between Ingimundur and Salka. The anger the former feels brims away just beneath the surface, and Ingvar Sigurdsson communicates this excellently. Little Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir’s gentleness makes for a poignant comparison, both actors delivering exquisite performances.
‘A White, White Day’ is truly beautifully shot by cinematographer Maria von Hausswolff. You're not always exactly sure what the movie is meant to be about or where it's going, but its striking visuals, and aforementioned impressive acting, hook you in. You wouldn’t call the film unmissable, but it’s certainly very different.