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CANNES 2022 Un Certain Regard

Review: Godland

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- CANNES 2022: Hlynur Pálmason makes a spectacular, visceral and epic film in the wake of a young Danish priest who faces thousands of challenges in the wild Iceland of the 19th century

Review: Godland
Elliott Crosset Hove in Godland

“It’s easy to lose your mind there,” “it has nothing to do with Denmark, everything is different”: volcanic eruptions on the east coast, potential rise of river levels, stench in the air, confusing midnight sun in summer… "You will have to adapt" but "no mission is impossible". For Lucas, a young priest sent to Iceland at the end of the 19th century to build a church before the following winter and to document the place by taking pictures of the local population, the mandate is presented as "gigantic" by his religious hierarchy, even if a native guide will be there to support him. It is at the heart of this epic journey that the very spectacular and no less intense Godland [+see also:
trailer
interview: Hlynur Pálmason
film profile
]
by Hlynur Pálmason, presented in the Un Certain Regard programme of the 75th Cannes Film Festival, is a work of very high artistic level, looking in-depth at the crushing link between the millennial powers of nature and the gaping moral faults that are revealed when humans are pushed to their limits. This film confirms the gradual rise in quality of world cinema by a very talented director after Winter Brothers [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Elliott Crosset Hove
interview: Hlynur Pálmason
film profile
]
(recipient of a Locarno prize in 2017) and A White, White Day [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Hlynur Pálmason
film profile
]
(Critics Week in Cannes in 2019).

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"It's not going as planned, I can't go any further." The journey of Lucas (Elliott Crosset Hove) towards his destination gradually turns into an ordeal in a very wild environment and in the company of a small group familiar with the extreme harshness of the environment. After a smooth boat ride, difficulties arise: learning on the job to ride a horse, climbing steep slopes, crossing waterways with perilous currents, camping in the cold, etc. In addition to physical exhaustion, there are dramatic events; deaths (by drowning and falling). One is caused by Lucas' impatience to reach his goal, and the other death, that of Lucas’ translator, deprives him of communication with the group, especially with their leader, the abrupt Ragnar (Ingvar Sigurdsson) with whom an intense personal animosity develops. When finally, after having been on the verge of losing his life, Lucas arrives at the small village where he must carry out his mission and where live Carl (Jacob Lohmann) and his two daughters Anna (Vic Carmen Sonne) and Ida (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir). It’s a completely different struggle, a moral struggle this time, which begins as Lucas has deeply changed throughout the journey...

Wonderfully filmed by DoP Maria von Hausswolff, Godland retraces this tormented and cathartic epic journey full of culture shocks with ambitious mastery of the genre and visceral proximity with the characters. And if the exceptional intensity of the first part (the journey) is slightly attenuated in the second chapter, which is more calm (but still tense) and social (the village, the construction of the church, the idyll, the settling of accounts, etc.), the whole film nevertheless constitutes a work of the very first cinematographic order which surely must not have passed far from entering the Cannes competition. But this is obviously only a postponement for Hlynur Pálmason, a very high-level director.

Godland is produced by Snowglobe with Join Motion Pictures, coproduced by Maneki FilmsFilm I Väst and Garagefilm International, and distributed by New Europe Film Sales.

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(Translated from French by Margaux Comte)

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