A White, White Day truly lives up to its title, drenching its stunning Icelandic scenery in a thick, dense fog. It opens with a car snaking across a mountain pass, tracked intensely by a roving drone-cam. When the car flies off into the mist, taking Ingimunder’s wife (Sara Dögg Ásgeirsdóttir) with it, we are immediately flung into Nordic noir territory. Filled with deep lakes and valleys perfect for hiding a variety of secrets, the film nestles elements of the surreal within a brooding, menacing atmosphere.
Another key characteristic of the genre is traditional, manly men. Ingimunder himself (Ingvar Sigurdsson) is a particularly old-school exemplar of this rugged ideal: he doesn’t cry when he finds out his wife is dead, refusing to truly open up about the depth of his loss. An off-duty cop, he responds in gruff tones to his well-meaning yet patronizing counselor: discussing his work on the house instead of his true feelings. (The construction of the building is captured in a striking changing-of-the-seasons montage, showing both the immense work that goes into such a thing and the incredible beauty of this remote Icelandic landscape.)
When Ingimunder gets his wife’s things back, he finds evidence that she was having an affair. The film reminds of us an eternal truth: if you’re going to sleep with someone’s wife, make sure he’s not a cop. These guys know a thing or two about finding out the truth. Slowly but surely, he puts together the pieces of her previous life, illegally using his police powers to stalk out his wife’s former lover. All the while, fog seems to cover nearly everything, to such an extent that one cannot tell the difference between the sea and the sky.
Nonetheless, the fascination of the movie lies not in Ingimunder’s desire for revenge, but his curiosity about his wife; who remains a closed book throughout. Crucially, we never meet her via Gone Girl-like flashbacks, but instead must imagine her for ourselves. Credit must go to Ingvar Sigurdsson, showing us a well-spring of pain and desire through facial expressions alone. But even within this particularly depressing world, there is hope, personified by Ingimunder’s granddaughter Salka (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir). Here director Hlynur Palmason zeroes in on the emotional heart of the story, with Ingimunder eventually having to choose between the past and the present, letting go and moving on.
Complemented by atonal, squeaking violins, striking, noir-like use of light and dark and intense tracking shots, A White, White Day coolly invites us into Ingimunder’s perspective: providing a morose vision of the world at one of its most far-flung outposts. Combining these elements with an often strange, surrealist tone — such as the epic journey of a rock down a pass or stories of astronauts on TV — and this is a slice of Nordic miserablism you simply don’t want to miss.
Important note: For clarity of image at home, don’t project this movie against a white wall. With all this fog, you won’t be able to see a thing.