It’s really not as hard as you’d think to lose your way…
In theatres now, Godland is a fascinating parable of the human condition on how the push and pull of our own intelligence and ego can collide against the elements of the world that we are carefully trying to exist in.
In the late nineteenth century, Danish priest Lucas (Elliott Crosset Hove) makes the perilous trek to Iceland’s southeastern coast with the intention of establishing a church. There, the arrogant man of God finds his resolve tested as he confronts the harsh terrain, temptations of the flesh, and the reality of being an intruder in an unforgiving land. What unfolds is a transfixing journey into the heart of colonial darkness attuned to both the majesty and terrifying power of the natural world.
To be fair, Godland is not a film that’s going to be for everyone, 2.5 hour theological examinations from Iceland rarely are, but there’s something truly genuine here as we see a man who gets blinded by his own intellect and beliefs when out in the wilderness for the first time.
Writer/Director Hlynur Pálmason has rarely been afraid of big ideas in his career and here is no different as he channels something here that lands somewhere between Werner Herzog’s Burden of Dreams and Martin Scorsese’s Silence.
Somewhat ironically framed in old style 1:33-1 Photographic style, this is still a gorgeously expansive film that by design is made to make our Danish priest feel increasingly insignificant and it actually works pretty well. Pálmason allows nature to be this ever encroaching force on a this character who thinks he’s above everyone around him on his mission to establish a church only to realize that he’s no better than those he felt he was meant to save. In fact he’s one of them and while the film leaves a lot to the audience to fill in, there is genuine human frailty and madness in the essential wasteland that Pálmason puts us in.
Elliott Crosset Hove works well in the lead here as we see him succumb to a life that caught him completely off guard. He plays it with classic Euro aristocratic arrogance which only makes his descent in the film all the more enjoyable as he denies the very nature of humanity itself coming into this new environment thinking he knew everything, when in fact it was the opposite that was true. Ingvar Sigurdsson who is a regular player in Pálmason’s films puts in solid work here as the other side of the coin to Hove’s arrogant and entirely unprepared priest.
At the end of the day while this may not be Pálmason’s most complete work (you can see the excellent A White, White Day for that) there’s something really interesting here in the core of Godland. While it wants to present and even try and answer some of the bigger theological questions out there in the world, it reminds us that the importance of faith and bringing that to other places is less about making people listen to you, but being open to what those around you actually have to say and how they live their lives.
- Release Date: 2/3/2023