A CURZON FILM
Hlynur Pálmason’s extraordinary third feature finds a Danish priest battling both locals and a forbidding landscape in 19th-century Iceland.
Lutheran priest Lucas (Elliott Crosset Hove) has been assigned by the Church of Denmark to establish a parish in the barren wilds of Iceland. A foolhardy soul, he decides to take an arduous cross-country route, much to the annoyance of his guide and soon-to-be neighbour Ragnar (Ingvar Sigurðsson), who even has to drag him to their destination when the priest falls from his horse. Undeterred, Lucas begins his work, but finds the locals less than receptive to his spiritual advances. All the while, Lucas remains both in awe of and unsettled by the beauty and indifference of the natural world. Just as he understands language to be a barrier between him and his potential congregation, so Lucas sees the landscape as a wildness he must tame.
Pálmason’s acclaimed A White, White Day (2019) cemented his reputation as a filmmaker with an eye for striking details. Here, he goes further, creating a world of transcendent beauty that is nevertheless unforgiving to those who attempt to live in it. The solemnity of the filmmaker’s style matches his story. It is framed within a square Academy ratio with rounded-off corners which, rather than revelling in the vastness of this open landscape, increases the uneasiness one can feel in a world with no visible boundaries.