Ragnhildur Jonsdottir is one of a few people from Iceland protesting the construction of a highway that will destroy lava formations at her part of the country. She and her fellow environmentalists are pretty reasonable as they show through their impromptu interviews. Highways are good, generations ago, these roads united Iceland’s villages from isolation. But they disapprove of this specific highway for two reasons. First, that this one makes existing roads redundant, and second, that some of the rock formations that it’s destroying is home to elves. Jonsdottir does a further explanation when it comes to the elves. Centuries ago, the Vikings came to Iceland and had to negotiate with the elves to stay. Now, according to her, elves choose a few people, including her. To them, she’s a communicator between the elf world and the human world, and the elf world disapproves of the highway.
I’m not Icelandic but there are elves in my culture, just like there are elves in many pre-Christian cultures. Just like in my culture, the elves’ domain is nature. I’m sure that the human world is pushing their boundaries towards the natural world everywhere. And perhaps there are worse cases of that outside of Iceland. But Jonsdottir and the other people in touch with aspects of Icelandic culture can make those connections. The Seer and the Unseen makes those connections more visually. It shows the theme parks and other unnecessary artificial structures that humans build in Iceland. Structures likes these are normal especially for urban viewers but the documentary makes archive footage of those things in Iceland look gaudier than usual. Let’s take out the elves from the equation. Even then, it doesn’t feel like it’s worth it to destroy rock formations for things like tacky attractions.
The film does have its moments when it lets its participants do their own version of wilding out. And even if those scenes aren’t major, they still do a little bit in destroying the message they’re trying to make. Jonsdottir and her colleagues are the original hipsters and some of the things they do look like what a few boomers do when they try to be cool. The third act also drones on for a bit. And Jonsdottir’s narration doesn’t always help in making those nature b-roll scenes come along. Regardless, environmentalism is a hard sell as it is. And mixing that with capitalism and pre-Christian beliefs makes it seem like director Sara Dosa is juggling too many balls in the air. She somehow makes connecting all of those topics relatively easy. She also lucked out in choosing a main participant in someone with steadfast beliefs.
The Seer and the Unseen comes to OVID on September 20.