The slow-burning A White, White Day thrives on a barely-felt erotic charge before sexual jealousy eventually runs rampant behind the domestic veneer. This extraordinary drama relies on a modicum of dialogue and lets disparate images - and those often beautifully composed images of the snow-capped Icelandic landscape - speak instead.The tormented policeman Ingimundir (Ingvar Sigurdsson (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Everest) is trying to hold things together in a starkly remote Icelandic outpost.
A stray rock on the road has tumbled from the surrounding slopes and, hitting the chassis of his car, makes Ingimundir, who is driving, come to a stop. He throws the rock off the road, it falls down the heathery mountain until it comes to rest in a forest of seaweed at the bottom of the sea.
This scene subtly echoes the opening sequence which features a car driven by a lone driver through a twisting, desolate mountain motorway. Suddenly the car crashes the barrier and disappears over the edge. No explanation, no background so far, and this, of course, is the nature of the curious enthrallment of Palmason's drama.
Later on we learn that the woman driving was in fact Ingimundir's wife who lost her life in the crash. The action then cuts to an absorbing sequence, a range of views of a curious two-part house linked by a passageway. The isolated homestead is filmed by a steadicam in all weathers, in dawn light and brooding evening shadow, in rain and sleet, and under blue skies of summer.
Icelandic ponies wander around the grass outsid. A grizzled grandfather Ingimundir may be to eight-year old Salka (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir), but the beard is misleading. He is still sufficiently middle-aged to be able to play football with his mates in this remote but beautiful outpost.
Meanwhile, Salka lives with her mother, Ingimundir's daughter and her husband, but the young girl is often visiting her grandfather. They have a wonderfully-observed relationship, he tells his psychotherapist that he is not lonely when she is around.
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The widower tries to pick up the pieces by putting windows and doors in the shell or frame of the house which stands four-square at the centre of the drama, its gradual construction mirroring the movements of the drama. There might be here the sense of a fresh start, although the policeman intends to move elsewhere and leave the completed dwelling place to his daughter and son-in-law.
The relationship between grandfather and grand-daughter my be warm and loving, but the bedtime story he tells her one night is macabre. She also unquestioningly watches a kiddie's TV programme which is way too disturbing. Meanwhile, Ingimundir goes to work at the local police station and tries to engage with his police colleagues, but he is a changed man. An Icelandic volcano is rumbling, relating to sexual jealousy and a neighbour, as this taut, yet lyrically unbound exercise works with ingenuity towards a riveting climax.
A White, White Day enjoyed its world premiere at the Semaine de la Critique in Cannes where Sigurdsson's powerful lead performance saw him awarded the prestigious Louis Roederer Foundation Rising Star Award. The drama went on to screen at film festivals across the globe, including the Cork Film Festival where it had its Irish premiere. It was also Iceland's submission for Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards earlier this year. Go see it.
A White, White Day is released on Friday August 28. Group bookings are restricted to a maximum of six people from no more than three different households.