Films from Iceland are a rare commodity, so when one comes along, it immediately feels worth paying attention to. Writer-director Grímur Hákonarson is not unknown, however. He’s made several films, including 2015’s award-winning Rams, about two estranged brothers who come together on a mission to save a flock of sheep. The film played in Cannes, and took the Un Certain Regard award at the festival.
Hákonarson’s latest film, The County, stays in rural terrain. Inga (Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir) and her husband Reynir (Hinrik Ólafsson) run Dalsmynni, a local dairy farm that – it soon transpires – is drowning in debt. It doesn’t help that the corrupt local co-op has them, and everyone else, in a bind, with a monopoly on buying their goods and exclusivity on selling them supplies – at a price that could easily be bettered elsewhere.
Exhausted, Reynir has no wish to rock the boat, but it is his increasing tiredness that presumably contributes to the film’s life-changing event – a road traffic accident, as his truck drives off the road. Did he fall asleep at the wheel? Was it something more sinister – a suicide? The film doesn’t linger on the causes; as audiences soon realise, this is Inga’s story. Grief is not an option, either – not with the farm performing so poorly.
Far more determined than her late widow, Inga takes on the co-op, when she discovers that her husband had been press-ganged into informing on others who buy their supplies elsewhere. Starting a one-woman campaign of retaliation, she’s soon slinging fertilizer at car windscreens and spraying milk across buildings in protest. It’s a classic underdog story – a not-so-subtle metaphor for corporate bullying and sticking it to The Man.
Leading the pack, Egilsdóttir is a solid choice to play Inga in what is her first leading film role. It’s no stretch to imagine her working the dairy farm or, indeed, leading a mini-revolution against her enemies. She’s an unlikely heroine to root for, but root for her you will. Suitably low-key in its style and design, The County is not a film of high emotions or broad strokes, but that’s what makes it an engaging watch.
The County is available to stream on Curzon Home Cinema. For more details, click here.