The County (Héraðið)
Cert: 12A Year: 2019 Length: 104 mins Language: Icelandic
We are off back to Iceland this week, from where we have had some great moments in the last few years – you will remember 'Rams' and 'Woman at War' I hope. 'The County' comes from the same director as 'Rams' - Grímur Hákonarson – but maybe has more of the feel of 'Woman at War'.
Our hero this time is Inga, a dairy farmer fighting to survive in a farm drowning in debt to the local Co-op. When her husband dies, she becomes aware that the Co-op, far from supporting the local farmers, acts more like the Mafia; yes they guarantee buying all her milk but she has to buy everything from them at inflated prices.
Risking everything, she writes a whistle-blower review to the Co-op Facebook account. The support she hopes for from the local farmers disappears as they fear the Co-op too much, giving us that feel of ‘Woman at War’ - she is left to fight on alone. Inga tries to set up a rival co-op run by the farmers themselves and even appears on national tv. As the Co-op throw its weight at her there are some classic comic moments as you would expect – Inga spraying their building with milk for instance and throwing stuff of her own back at them!
Comparing this to Grímur Hákonarson's previous film, 'Rams', Amber Wilkinson says in Eye for Film, "More of a low-key straight forward drama than his black comedy-inflected hit", although Alissa Simon, Variety, thinks "The yin to that film's yang, 'The County' is full of feisty female energy and imagery, and sprinkled with rousing 'you go girl!' comic moments".
So we can expect the dour, low-key comedy Iceland seems to produce so well – see the robot cow-pat hoover going about its business - whilst enjoying this David and Goliath battle for ideas.
For the third time this season, we have a female hero, this time played by Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir in her first leading role: "Egilsdóttir's excellent performance as Inga shows us that, as the gruelling action continues, she looks younger and younger, just when you might expect her to become grizzled and aged by this nasty battle against a local bigwig. It is as if this struggle has given her a new vitality, which wasn't provided by back-breaking 24/7 work to pay off a crippling mortgage. Her enemies threaten her with bankruptcy. But this threat, so far from scaring her, does the opposite" – Peter Bradshaw Guardian. If you want to keep young and healthy...fightback!
The County blends elements of heartfelt tragedy with absurdist comedy, conjuring a humanist portrait of life in which community and loneliness coexist in a landscape of contradictions - geographical, personal, and political.
Mark Kermode, Observer
Rich in specific procedural detail, this is an absorbing spin on the George Orwell line: "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever." Sophie Monks Kaufman, Empire Magazine
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