“Godland” is a Danish/Icelandic film replete with both stark and lush characters and topography. The cinematography and the soundtrack capture the stark yet lush landscape of Iceland. The characters too are both stark and rich and as a former casting agent I would venture to say absolute impeccable casting in “Godland”.
There are certain historical and political tangents running through the film. Iceland was under Danish and Norwegian rule from 1262-1944. If you look carefully and have a sharp and critical mind you’ll discern certain negative barbs at Danish colonialism but they are subtle where they could be very well rantable.
The film opens with young Danish priest Lucas sitting bolt upright listening to details about his assignment in Iceland from a senior Danish clergy official absolutely stuffing his face in a noisy and gluttonous manner. Lucas is to treat himself like an apostle to manage the strange and wild people of Iceland. Perhaps the most valuable piece of advice Lucas receives is that he must adapt to the Icelandic people and culture or his task will come to nothing. OK then a fat greedy Denmark sending an apostle to convert the heathens?
Lucas sets sale from Denmark to Iceland landing far from his destination so he can journey through Iceland to get a better idea of the country he has been sent to build a church in. He intends to photograph the country and its people. Upon meeting his guide Ragnar, the Danish priest is awkward, condescending, cold, arrogant and blundering making no connection with the Icelanders and more likely alienating them and earning their scorn. Ragnar quickly refers to Lucas as a “Danish Devil”. Due to the stupidity and arrogance of Lucas there is a death in the horse caravan taking Lucas to his destination. Throughout the film rotting animals and humans are seen but they are all absorbed into the terrain. Just a part of Icelandic life that Lucas will soon participate in.
Upon reaching his destination Lucas is nothing but a callous incompetent neither an intellectual nor a competent cleric. He is but an enormous embarrassment to his church and to all Danes but when has that ever bothered a colonial power? Lucas is failure and a fornicating and a murderous hypocrite. Iceland devours him like it does animals and humans it has conquered. Iceland conquers the Dane Lucas. Danish colonialism suffers a defeat most likely totally unnoticed or understood in Denmark. Such is the callousness of colonialism and its inherent brutality that its apostles are nothing but cannon fodder in the colonial march.
The cinematography is perhaps the biggest treat for the viewer. It is spectacular. It is stark yet incredibly rich and propels the film forward irrespective of any political message.
The casting is impeccable. Elliot Crosset Hove as Lucas conveys arrogance, stupidity and awkwardness to a sublime level. The gutsy Ragnar played by Ingvar Sigurðsson is almost a primitive incarnation of an unconquerable Iceland. Ragnar is almost godlike. Lucas is black death. The supporting cast is cast to absolute perfection.
Iceland is close to Godland and the Danish colonial intrusion is indeed devilish!
The director is Hlynur Pálmason.
You can watch the trailer here https://vimeo.com/789053419
The film opens in theatres in Canada on February 3, 2023.
RKS 2023 Film Rating 95/100.