At the end of the 19th century, a young Danish priest is sent to a remote part of Iceland. The deeper he travels into the Icelandic landscape, the more he loses a sense of his own reality, his mission and his sense of duty.
Godland is the International Feature submission for Iceland. With its landscape of volcanos, lowlands, ice, and the ever changing harsh weather, every landform in Iceland is a one of a kind sight and experience. The unique geographical features of the country makes it 80% uninhabitable. As a result, before the 1900's, there was little immigration to Iceland, with the local few slowly beginning to build settlements. Those that decided to venture were mostly from Danish heritage.
The film is set in the late 1800’s. Lucas, a Danish priest, has been instructed to head to Iceland to build a church and to save the souls of the few residents who live in this godforsaken corner of Denmark’s empire. He is told by his bishop that he must adapt to the circumstances of the country and its people. Under-equipped for the task but extremely eager to get started, Lucas sets sail on a boat ready for his adventure, carrying his heavy photographic apparatus and way too many books.
After a bumpy sea journey, Lucas lands in a remote part of Iceland where he is greeted by Ragnar, and a few other locals. They are tasked with bringing the priest to the site where the new church is to be built. Surrounded by the immense and often terrifying beauty of the landscape, Lucas wants to do it the hard way, by walking from the west coast of the island to his final destination so that he gets to know the land, photograph it and its people. The expedition begins and the group of islanders set off on their journey, all the while Lucas is completely naive to what awaits him.
Lucas’ experience of life has come largely from books. He is like a lot of young priests who went to the colonies during Christianity’s missionary phase, with little to no regard to the inhabitants of these places. Arrogant, dismissive, fearful and so out of depth, these missions often failed. Badly. Ragnar and the other islanders saw Lucas as a “Danish Devil.” They didn’t ask for a church to be built. They didn’t ask for a priest to come teach them God’s will. Their hostility is mostly felt beneath the surface, acting kind to the stranger, all the while wanting him gone. This is the moral superiority of colonialism.
In this wretched godland, we are reminded how small we really are as people. We are reminded how short our time is on this Earth. And we are reminded that what we know and that what we think we know is not very important at all.