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Godland(Vanskabte land)

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Denmark, Iceland, France · 2022
2h 23m
Director Hlynur Pálmason
Starring Elliott Crosset Hove, Vic Carmen Sonne, Ingvar E. Sigurðsson, Jacob Ulrik Lohmann
Genre Adventure, Drama

Before the turn of the 20th century, a priest from Denmark makes a dangerous journey to the southeast of Iceland to establish a mission, build a church, and take photographs of the local people. As he undergoes this expedition through incredibly hostile terrain, he drifts further away from his mission.

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What are critics saying?


The New Yorker by Anthony Lane

The strange thing is that, as the film unfolds, the beauty of the place grows ever more unforgiving. It resembles another planet, fresh from the act of creation, but it feels like a prison.


IndieWire by Carlos Aguilar

An arrestingly beautiful and philosophically imposing bilingual historical drama about the arrogance of mankind in the face of nature’s unforgiving prowess, the inherent failures of colonial enterprises, and how these factors configure the cultural identities of individuals.


Slant by Carson Lund

The film’s unifying theme is the egocentrism and inevitable violence of masculinity.


Cinevue by Christopher Machell

Austere, emotionally taciturn and with shades of Bergman, Dreyer and Jan Troell’s The New Land about it, Godland is the Icelandic director’s most accomplished work to date.


The Hollywood Reporter by David Rooney

This is a highly original work that goes beyond its theological aspects to explore more universal questions of mankind and our evanescent place in the world.


The Playlist by Elena Lazic

The film’s very long takes feel extremely rich with meaning and texture even as they often show a whole lot of nothing.


The Austin Chronicle by Jenny Nulf

The film itself is fictional, filmed in a 1.33:1 ratio to mimic the framing of the inspirational photographs. It’s absolutely breathtaking work – the camera helmed by Maria von Hausswolff captures the unassuming beauty of Iceland, but also does not hide its frigid nature, both terrifying and beautiful.


Little White Lies by Josh Slater-Williams

If that first hour or so is where the film resembles debilitating wilderness trek tales such as Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff or Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo (in both content and quality), the claustrophobic second half is where valid comparisons to something like Shūsaku Endō’s Silence – though especially Martin Scorsese’s 2016 screen adaptation – come to the fore; where colonial arrogance and perceived enlightenment make for combustible mix ready to blow at the slightest provocation.


Los Angeles Times by Justin Chang

Hove makes Lucas a boldly repellent protagonist, a one-man rebuke to the idea that faith necessarily endows anyone with foresight, humility or kindness.


New York Times by Manohla Dargis

Godland gestures at several intersecting themes — belief, the struggle to hold onto faith, the impermanence of being — with greater suggestiveness than depth. It’s a sharp, dryly funny, at times cruel exploration of human arrogance and frailty.


Washington Post by Mark Jenkins

The music energizes this often slow-moving film, even if it isn’t potent enough to bring its protagonist to life. Lucas’s bulky camera has, in its way, as much personality as its owner.


The Observer by Mark Kermode

There’s a strong element of myth and magic at work here too, most notably in the recitation of an eerie dream about mating eels and mass infidelity, and in the sight of the body of a horse rotting over a period of years and returning to the earth. It all adds to the film’s haunting appeal.


The Guardian by Peter Bradshaw

There is such superb compositional sense in the still life tableau shots and the almost archaeological sense of time, creating something deeply mysterious and unbearably sad.


The Wrap by Robert Abele

A sumptuous travelogue it is not; a visually stunning, soul-clenching examination of the curious push/pull between humans and the environment it most certainly is.


Movie Nation by Roger Moore

A two and a half hour Icelandic parable isn’t going to be to every taste. But Pálmason, framing his movie in old still photograph 1.33.1 aspect ratio, immerses us in a place and a time — beautiful, unspoiled and eternal. And he makes us question, as Lucas, Ragnar and others do, the function of faith in such circumstances, and the usefulness of those who insist on proselytizing without listening.


Screen Daily by Wendy Ide

It’s an accomplished, ambitious work which has a Herzogian fascination with vast, unforgiving landscapes, hubris and madness.


Time Out by Whelan Barzey

Godland is every bit as striking and otherworldly as you would expect a story inspired by a collection of long-lost wet plate photographs to be. It’s tailor-made for those who enjoy sitting by the window and watching the snow fall, but less so for those who can’t wait for the grit van to come and melt it all away.

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