“Photography mechanically repeats what can never be repeated existentially again.” The phrase is from Roland Barthes in his mythical essay ‘La cámara lucida’ and, in his own way, he intuitively (or phenomenologically, whatever you like) describes the tension that presides over one of the season’s great films. Goodlandby the Icelandic director Hlynur Pálmason, claims to be the result of a reflection or investigation (which is also an invention) on some lost and now found photographs. At the beginning of the film, a text warns about the first daguerreotypes ever taken from the island in the middle of the Atlantic that was once a colony of Denmark. In reality, it is simply a Borgesian (or Bolañesque) trick, a trompe l’oeil, on which to build a story that speaks precisely of the distance between necessity and contingency; between lived time and eternity; between reality and desire; between faith and its absence. But it is also a film that takes charge of each of the certainties of an art (cinema itself) that, in effect, vanishes. It is a film that is profound in its conception and dazzling in its development. Serious and amusingly scathing at the same time.
The story of a man of faith with the mission of building a church in a remote place is told. The priest arrives from Denmark to Iceland by boat. And once there, he prepares to cross the island. Actually, he could have reached his destination by sea directly, but, as one of the characters says, he “absurdly” decides to do it on foot. When the trip is completed, the protagonist will find himself crossed, and in his crucified way, by all doubts; the doubts of the flesh, the doubts of his condition as a man, the doubts of his purpose devoid of, let’s admit it, meaning.
Shot in a square format with rounded corners and a photo grain fake so that its nature as an image of an image – mechanical reproduction (which is never existential, as Barthes would say) – is always clear, the film is presented to the viewer as a kind of western absorbing and anti-epic devoted to the adventure of discovering the very limit of, precisely, the adventure, the adventure of living Ultimately, what is at stake is the space of the border, the place where the stubborn force of nature prevails over the mystical rigor of faith. It would seem that it is about what has been called the silence of god and, in reality, what counts is his deafening expressiveness, his snorting anger, the divine effort to laugh at everything, including himself and, already posts, of their representatives on Earth. All over the top and existentially ridiculous.
The director of the overwhelming A white, white day insists on tracking down the essentially toxic conflict of any exercise of domination. ‘Godland’ denounces the great hypocrisy of colonialism while questioning other forms of understanding (of nature, of others and of oneself) that do not necessarily entail extermination. The result is a film that moves across the screen like an enigma, but without overwhelming, letting the ridiculous intimate that attends us and defines us receive the attention and space it deserves. Undoubtedly, and as difficult as it may seem, the best possible option to refute and celebrate summer at the same time, this one and all those that will come.