“Godland” (“Vanskabte Land”/“Volada Land”)
Rotten Tomatoes (3.5/5),Metacritic (7/10), Letterboxd (3.5/5), Imdb.com (7/10), TMDB.com (3.5/5)
What is God? Is it a reasoned, rational civilized entity or a wild, untamed force full of untamed power in search of being reined in? And, in light of that, then, what kind of relationship are we supposed to have with this elusive divine enigma? That’s one of many unexpected challenges put to a young Lutheran priest (Elliott Crosset Hove) who’s charged with building a church in a small community of Danish immigrants transplanted from the homeland in late 19th Century Iceland, the so-called “unforgiving island.” But, rather than sail directly to his new future home, he chooses to land on the island’s southeastern coast and cross the diverse terrain to his destination, partly to get to know the land and its people but also to indulge his hobby as a pioneering photographer. Once there, however, he gets more than he bargained for, given the difficulty of the journey and the many extreme differences in language, sensibilities and rugged lifestyle compared to the more genteel Denmark he left behind. This combination of elements tests his wits, his patience, and, above all, his faith, as events unfold in unforeseen and potentially disturbing ways. It’s an evolutionary journey for which he’s unprepared and often unable to fathom, prompting him to question much of what he believes and how he conducts himself. The result is a thoughtful meditation on these issues, featuring positively stunning cinematography, fine performances and superb production values. The pacing is surprisingly well balanced, too, especially for a film with a 2:23:00 runtime, though some of the picture’s montages – as beautiful as they are – probably could have been dialed back somewhat without significantly impacting the finished product. Writer-director Hlynur Pálmason’s fact-inspired tale is arguably his best work to date, but be sure to give this one the time that it deserves to thoroughly appreciate and enjoy it, both for its sheer beauty and for everything it has to say about the divine and the place it occupies in our lives.