Hlynur Pálmason’s “A White, White Day” is billed as a thriller, but it is opaque and distant. Icy and removed with painterly atmospheric scenarios, this film is not how suspense stories are usually treated. It is a thriller through the lens of Albert Camus.
Ingimundur (Ingvar Sigurdsson) is a middle aged retired police chief in Iceland grieving the loss of his wife, who was known to be joyful and effervescent. Ingimundur does not have much in his life, only his granddaughter (Ída Mekkin Hlynsdóttir). Frequently he dreams of his wife’s car entering the thick fog and going off the rail into the abyss.
Ingimundur is working on a house for his daughter and granddaughter that never seems to be close to completion.
The man’s peers patronize him but his face is invariably one of stone. He has a psychiatrist but the doctor makes no headway with him. Ingimundur refuses to betray any emotion.
When Ingimundur opens his wife’s belongings, he sniffs his wife’s shirt and puts it on. The memories flood back.
He happens upon some photographs and a video showing his wife in intimacy with another man. Jealousy enflames him and he demolishes a computer during a Skype session with his doctor.
Ingimundur begins to stalk the man he thinks he sees in the video.
The film is interspersed with time lapse shots regarding seasonal changes. Nature moves on in neutrality, regardless of Ingimundur’s emotions, enraged or otherwise. These scenes of mountains and snow have a razor sharp quality as in the work of Andrew Wyeth. At certain moments it seems as if the house itself is malevolent seen from afar as in the films of Ari Aster.
The film has sinister aspects. There is a rock, a shovel and a dug grave but just when you think you are in for a horror show, the camera pulls back to show the chief’s clouded ice-blue eyes that become impossible to read.
Ingvar Sigurdsson is wonderful as is Ída Mekkin Hlynsdóttir, the granddaughter. The film teases our expectations and flirts with going in the direction of a Kubrick-style freak-out reminiscent of “The Shining.” More interestingly though, this story is 100% authentic and we feel for this man and his granddaughter, wrestling with personal spirits.
“A White, White Day” is an experience as gripping in Gothic noir as it is thoughtful with hints of the existential human condition. Propulsive and profound with its own eccentric rhythm, the film is rare for leaving many questions along with its end credits.
This film is part of the Tropic’s Virtual Cinematheque Series. Get tickets here and support the Tropic!
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