Ingvar Sigurdsson and Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir in ‘A White, White Day’

How do you follow an opening scene like that of Icelandic knockout A White, White Day? The focus is an SUV on a high-country road, the camera floating behind, the vehicle implacable, slogging in and out of frozen fog. Seconds pass. Mesmerism builds. And then, from nowhere, a shocking end. What now? Well, now director Hlynur Pálmason cues another jawdrop sequence, the ante upped with a static shot of a half-built house, behind it a quick-fire kaleidoscope of weather conditions, passing months compressed into minutes — from snow to pink sunsets to hellacious downpours. The effect is dizzying in the very best sense.

Remarkably, the rest of the film lives up to that double whammy overture, a singular thriller of love and revenge. The unfinished house is the project of the grizzled, recently bereaved Ingimundur (Ingvar Sigurdsson, superb). In a crafty piece of scripting, we learn all kinds of things in one exchange with a counsellor during which Ingimundur is invited to describe himself. “I am a man,” he replies, scoffing before resignedly joining in. Father, he says. Grandfather. Policeman. Widower. All these will have a role in the film. So too the house, a skeleton of timber and pipework.

Not one affording much security either. In the course of a visit from his granddaughter Salka (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir), an Icelandic horse clops from a nearby field into the kitchen, a moment of everyday surrealism in a film filled with uninvited guests. Ingimundur stumbles into evidence of his late wife leading a double life. Now, he turns private detective, tugging at loose threads, unravelling himself in the process. What now for a director this eye-poppingly talented? It would be unwise to miss the answer.

★★★★☆

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