Beautiful and terrifying: Godland director Hlynur Pálmason talks about the clash of opposites in this visually stunning film

Apr 21, 2023
Dimitris Passas

NOTE: This interview is a republication- Source: Nordic Watchlist.

What is interesting with Godland is that Hlynur brings Danish Elliott Crosset Hove and Icelandic Ingvar Sigurdsson from his previous two features, together in his third. Other recognisable faces are also paired such as the excellent Vic Carmon Stone (Holiday), and Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir (A White White Day) – the latter of whom is in fact Hlynur’s daughter and a very special talent.

Godland is a long slow-burn film about a young Danish priest Lucas (Elliott Crosset Hove), sent on a long journey through Iceland’s unforgiving terrain to build a church. Two world’s collide and polar opposites conflict: Denmark and Iceland, two different languages, old and new, faith and hopelessness, the priest and his guide, man and nature, and the beauty and danger of the Icelandic landscape.

Hlynur: I think this film was very much bringing these two worlds together. I had been living between the two countries where I grew up in Iceland then studied in Denmark and had children there before moving back to Iceland. It felt like taking these opposites and putting them together.

It started out in 2013 in a very naïve way – almost putting this Icelandic blue colour against the Danish red, then taking it from there with the weather, the landscape, and also the language. This miscommunication which creates so much misunderstandingand seeing what happens from that.

Hlynur explains that the film was inspired by the idea of photos the priest took on his journey being uncovered years later and having to fill in the gaps of what took place between each shot. Lucas carries around a camera with him and we see him take these shots in the film. The style of the film is also shot in a photographic style, with long lingering landscapes and square aspect ratio.

Hlynur: When I started writing the film it was a very stiff and heavy story – I don’t know if I was quite ready for it yet or maybe I was too young. It just wasn’t seeming to come together but then later on I was thinking about – that Lucas had this heavy cross that he had to bring along with him but then I had this epiphany that it wasn’t only the cross he was carrying, but this camera too.

It all makes for an arduous but visually stunning and arresting experience. Much like Lucas’ journey and experience in the film I imagine.

This idea of the photos in the film breathed a new sense of life into Hlynur’s project which allowed him to begin to imagine these photographs that Lucas’ character takes and the stories that evolve around them.

Hlynur: Suddenly the possibilities became endless and I got so excited working on the project.

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