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Iceland Culture

Here’s a list of what the Icelandic director Benedikt Erlingsson says is missing from his new film “Woman at War”: “No misery, no violence, no death, not even a gun, and no sex.”

Despite the absence of those mainstays, he said “Woman at War” is an action thriller with lessons for Hollywood films. It’s a tense, topical film of espionage, sabotage and personal demons about a lone eco-terrorist (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) being hunted by the Icelandic government and a massive corporation doing harm to the environment.

And because this is an Icelandic film, its hero has a trio of musicians who follow her across hill sides, rooftops and into her home providing the film’s brisk, invigorating score as she goes. At one point, a drummer seemingly tips her off to the danger awaiting her.

“I wish they would do more of this,” Erlingsson told TheWrap’s Steve Pond at a post-screening Q&A on Wednesday. “Imagine Tom Cruise with a band, saving the world.”

Also Read: 'Woman at War' Film Review: Goofy Icelandic Ecoterrorism Thriller Is a Beautiful Hoot

“Woman at War,” Iceland’s submission to the 2019 Foreign Language Oscars race, screened as part of TheWrap’s Awards and Foreign Screening series at the Landmark Theatres in Los Angeles.

While it has a peculiar sense of humor courtesy of its onscreen band, Erlingsson doesn’t consider his film a comedy, and he strived to make a film that tackles complex subjects like global warming in a way that could still be considered “accessible.”

“Everything you do really has to have some meaning. You have to have something to say. This subject is really complicated, and there are a lot of gray areas, and it touches many ideas,” Erlingsson said. “So the challenge was to really make an accessible, mainstream blockbuster film about this. An art-house blockbuster on a very complicated issue. Is that possible, in a feel-good film?”

Also Read: How Icelandic Black Comedy 'Under the Tree' Shows the Worst In People

Beta Cinema

In that spirit, Erlingsson offered an optimistic perspective on the climate change crisis — based on his experience as an activist who once chained himself to a whaling boat to keep it from sailing out to hunt. (If you want to know how to take down an electricity pylon as the lead character Halla does in the film, he encouraged anyone to talk to him after the screening.)

These days, he has changed his lifestyle to become more environmentally friendly — and encourages aspiring politicians to share a similar message: “Vote for me, and I will fight that you will get less of everything. This is the challenge.

“If I was a publicist, you will get less of everything, but what you will get will last longer,” he said. “You will get a better lifestyle. More meat, more movement. The lifestyle change ahead of us is not so drastic. And you can throw in, ‘And I will give you more games, I will give you more films, love, sex, poetry, theater.”

Also Read: Oscars Give More Power in Foreign Language Voting to LA Members (Exclusive)

“Woman at War” also takes an unexpected turn away from politics, exploring how Halla juggles her guerrilla activism with the prospect of being a mom when a four-year-old adoption application suddenly comes through.

The character’s dilemma should be very relatable to a politically-minded American audience, Erlingsson said. “How am I going to change the world? Is it not to change myself? Should I save myself, or should I take action?” he asked. “This is an element we are all struggling with, and we have to do both.”

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Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, known for his celebrated work on “Sicario,” “The Theory of Everything” and “Arrival,” was found dead in his Berlin apartment. He was 48.

“I’m so very sad. Today, I lost my friend who was one of the most talented musicians and intelligent people I knew. We came a long way together,” Jóhannsson’s manager, Tim Husom, said in a statement on Saturday. The composer was found Friday, and his cause of his death is unknown.

Known for compositions that blended electronics with classical orchestrations, Jóhannsson was one of the most in-demand film composers of his generation. The Icelandic composed music for theater, dance, TV and films. “Sicario” and “The Theory of Everything” earned him Academy Award nominations for Best Original Score, and the latter won him a Golden Globe.

Also Read: Felicity Jones Brings the Heart to 'Theory of Everything' (Exclusive Video)

Most recently, he was the music and sound consultant for “mother!” His work will also be heard in the upcoming Rooney Mara film, “Mary Magdalene.”

Jóhannsson began his musical career in Reykjavík, Iceland, where he played guitar in indie rock bands while studying languages and literature. In 1999, he co-founded the think tank and music label, “Kitchen Motors,” which encouraged collaboration between artists from different genres.

He released his first solo album, “Englabörn,” in 2002, which was followed by “Virðulegu Forsetar.” “Fordlândia,” “IBM 1401 – A User’s Manual,” “The Miners’ Hymns” and “Orphée.”

Also Read: John Morris, 'Blazing Saddles' and 'Young Frankenstein' Composer, Dies at 91

His representative at Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency said in a statement:

“We are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of our client and dear friend Jóhann Jóhannsson, whose great talent, humility and kindness enriched our lives immeasurably. His music has inspired many new generations of filmmakers and composers. He will be so greatly missed by his Gorfaine/Schwartz family as well as the entire film music community.”

Jóhannsson is survived by his parents, sisters and daughter.

Related stories from TheWrap:

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John Mahoney, 'Frasier' Dad, Dies at 77

Dennis Edwards, Temptations Lead Singer, Dies at 74 | 2/10/18
Oh no. This is so tragic. Icelandic musician / composer Jóhann Jóhannsson has passed away, according to multiple reports online (see: THR) that confirm the news with his manager. According to the reports, Jóhannsson died at age 48 in Berlin, where he was living, though no other details about what happened are known yet. This hits really hard, because Jóhannsson was on his way to starting an awesome career as a very talented, very unique composer for films as well as theatre, dance and TV. His most recent work includes the score for Darren Aronofsky's mother! (not in the final cut), the Danish film In the Blood, and Colin Firth's The Mercy. He also earned two Oscar nominations for his scores for The Theory of Everything and Sicario. Jóhann was born and raised in Reykjavík, Iceland in 1969, where he later went on to study languages and literature at university. He started his musical career as a guitarist playing in indie ...

On Jan. 2., the last night of Blaze Bernstein’s life, he was as happy as his parents had ever seen him.

“He had a glow about him,” his mother, Jeanne Pepper Bernstein tells PEOPLE. “He was in a good place. He was really happy. He was shining.”

Blaze was so ebullient because he loved his life as a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was planning to study pre-med, she says. While he enjoyed spending time with his family in Lake Forest, California, for winter break, whipping up gourmet meals for his parents and taking part in frequent rounds of Balderdash on the family’s many game nights, “he couldn’t wait to get back,” she says. “He got a new apartment. He had so much to look forward to when he got there.”

Blaze would never make it back to school. Later that night, he met a former classmate from high school – Samuel Woodward, 20, – and never returned home, say police.

Six days after his parents reported him missing, his lifeless body was found on Jan. 9 in a shallow grave at nearby Borrego Park. On Friday, Woodward was arrested on suspicion of homicide. On Wednesday, he was charged with murder and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if he is convicted.

RELATED: PEOPLE Explains: UPenn Student Blaze Bernstein’s Killing as New Details Emerge After Friend’s Arrest

Blaze’s death has left his family devastated. “We are all sad,” says his mother. “We are all crying. The whole world is crying right now.”

While authorities have not revealed much about why Blaze met Woodward the night of Jan. 2 or what led to the alleged stabbing, a search warrant affidavit obtained by the Orange County Register, which has since been sealed, Woodward alleges that Blaze tried to kiss him and Woodward subsequently away.

Blaze’s parents say they knew their son was gay and accepted that. “We told him we are all God’s children,” his father, Gideon Bernstein tells PEOPLE. “We told him, ‘We love you and want you to have a good life and be happy.’

“His sexual identity was no different than his other identities – being Jewish or male or a poet or a writer or a chef,” he says. “He didn’t want one to be overriding the other. That is what he communicated to us.”

“Everybody knew but he really didn’t like talking about it.”

RELATED VIDEO: Parents of Missing UPenn Student, 19, Found Dead Tearfully Mourn Son: ‘Our Family Is Devastated’

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The Bernsteins remember their son as a “Renaissance man” who loved traveling to far-flung locales including Iceland, Israel, and Italy with his family.

His interests were wide. He loved writing, cooking, and photography. “I bought him this book on interior decorating and he was so excited to have it,” she says.

“He was a scholar in all things,” says Jeanne. “Art, literature, and science.”

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She also marveled at watching him grow into a man, she says. “I knew he was becoming an adult when he stopped tattling on (his younger sister) and started to enjoy her,” says Jeanne.  “That started to happen about the time he left for college. If he didn’t like something she was doing, he wouldn’t come to me and complain. He would go to her and ask her nicely to stop doing it. It finally clicked with him. He was an adult. He could relate to her.”

On Monday, hundreds of mourners attended a service for Blaze.

The family has asked that contributions be made to the Blaze Bernstein Memorial Fund at the Jewish Community Foundation Orange County to help children and families in need. | 1/18/18

The culture of Iceland is rich and varied as well as being known for its literary heritage which stems from authors from the 12th to 14th centuries. Other Icelandic traditional arts include weaving, silversmithing, and wood carving. The Reykjavík area has several professional theatres, a symphony orchestra, an opera, and a large amount of art galleries, bookstores, cinemas, and museums. There are also four active folk dance ensemble in Iceland. Iceland's literacy rate is among the highest in the world, and a love of literature, art, chess, and other intellectual pursuits is widespread.

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