Godland (2022)

Godland (2022)

A grand, terrific beauty of a film

The Very Best



Denmark, France
Danish, Icelandic
Elliott Crosset Hove, Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir, Ingvar E. Sigurðsson
143 min


Alternate title: Man with a Moving Camera (2022)

What it's about

Set at the tail end of the 19th century, the film follows a Danish priest (who also happens to be an amateur photographer) as he embarks on a missionary journey to put up a chapel in a village in Iceland.

The take

On the one hand, Godland is a film about nature’s unforgiving beauty. Like the photographs the priest Lucas (Elliott Crosset Hove) takes, these quietly superb scenes speak for themselves. The Earth moves in mysterious and harsh ways, and we are but mere specks, organic matter to be folded in and absorbed, in the grand scheme of things. It would’ve worked with just this message alone, but Godland also treads on political ground. Through Lucas, who is Danish, and his travel guide Ragnar (Ingvar Sigurdsson), who is Icelandic, we sense a palpable tension that electrifies the film with a colonial strain. There are layers to their deep aversion (and dependence) on one another, and director Hlynur Pálmason does well to pair this with imagery that is just complex, profound, and packed with meaning.

What stands out

The breathtaking ways the film tries to capture Iceland’s terrifying beauty. The boxy ratio and film grain add an authentic depth, but how the camera moves is truly impressive—almost as if it, too, is afraid of the Earth’s savagery. When it’s not zooming out to show the mountain's unending cliffs or the ocean’s unbounded depths, it’s trembling and melting before it. And yet, for all the Nat Geo-worthy sceneries, there are also unsettlingly intimate moments, such as when we watch a fly crawl in between a man’s shut eyelids just as he’s about to wake up, or when we see beads of sweat dot the face of a woman he’s been intimate with. There is also a gorgeous one-take that’s a genre painting come to life: simple and beautiful, with the camera circling the pastoral celebration before it. More than anything, it’s these striking images that will follow you long after the film ends.

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