Writer/director Grímur Hákonarson has made an ambitious change in genre, choosing to make a Ken Loach-style social realist film, with his latest work The County. The film tells the story of farmers forced to compromise with a company that has monopolised their small local industry, forcing all business supplies and goods to flow through them. ‘Co-op’ maintains this order using ruthless tactics, such threats, and only providing aide to cooperative farmers.
The film unfolds from the perspective of Inja (Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir), who has just lost her husband and, after learning exactly what her late husband did for Co-op, takes to social media in disgust to equate company to the Mafia. Her actions reignite divide between farmers when it comes to the Co-op, as some disagree vehemently with Inja. After she is laughed out of a community meeting, a few fellow farmers invite her to join them in creating a new farmers’ cooperative to take on the Co-op.
As an exercise in social realism, The County ticks all the boxes and is relevant to modern society in several ways. However, the film’s serious tone will catch those going in solely based on the tongue in cheek nature of Hákonarson previous film Rams, a favourite of Cannes in 2015, off-guard. The film also does not quite stack up when compared to Woman at War, another Icelandic film with a middle-aged female lead looking to shake up the status quo. Regardless, The County is a very good film that has plenty of timely social commentary to reflect on.
The County is screening at the Scandinavian Film Festival in Australia