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Elliott Crosset Hove in Godland (IMDB/New Europe Film Sales)

In Godland, a young Danish Lutheran priest sails to Iceland to build a church, travelling the rugged terrain and testing his faith. Source: Australian Catholics. 

Commentators have noted the title is not an accurate translation from the Danish (Vanskabte Land) or the Icelandic (Volaða Land). Rather, it should be something like God-forsaken or wretched land and, in many ways, they are more accurate titles. 

This is a sombre and bleak story with a 19th-century setting. It highlights Denmark’s colonial attitudes towards Iceland and its inhabitants, notes differences in language and attitudes about strong local Viking traditions and the more sophisticated culture of 19th-century Scandinavia.

The central character – the young Lutheran priest Lucas – is sent by his superior from Denmark to Iceland, to build a church in a village before the winter. 

Lucas sits upright listening to the priest, his body language serious, his face stern, sometimes expressionless even though so much is going on in his interior life. Lucas says the right words, is pious and earnest but, as is revealed, is not particularly devout.

Photography is important in this film, with the young priest eager to capture the journey on his camera. 

This is a film of great visual beauty, extraordinary photography of extraordinary landscapes, the sea, the remote beaches, cliffs, mountain peaks, valleys, plateaus and plains, streams and rivers, beautiful but harsh, challenging to any human trekking through these landscapes. Lucas has decided to go by land to the village. It’s a difficult journey of many days. Lucas is unused to these landscapes, sometimes collapsing, feeling alienated from his Icelandic guides, especially the rugged Ragnar (Ingvar Sigurdsson). 

The tension between the two carries through the film, but there are some wonderful moments when Ragnar actually wants to talk to Lucas about life, about God and the experience of God, though Lucas tends to dismiss him, using the excuse of not understanding his language.

The latter part of the film shows Lucas adapting (and not adapting) to life in the town. And, as might be expected, there is a God-forsaken, sombre ending.

Review by Fr Peter Malone MSC, Jesuit Media

Godland: Starring Elliot Cross Hove, Ingvar Sigurdsson, Vic Carmen Sonne, Jacob Lohmann, Hilmar Gudjonsson, Ida Mekkin Hlynsdottir. Directed by Hlynur Palmason. 143 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes, scenes of animal slaughter, violence and nudity).


Godland (Jesuit Media via Australian Catholics)