Godland Movie Walkthrough and Discussion

Godland Movie Walkthrough and Discussion
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Godland Movie Walkthrough and Discussion. It’s been a while since we’ve walked a theological gangplank to see what we would find at the other end. But today we have the movie Godland – a 2022 film. It’s set in the late 19th century, and follows a Lutheran priest from Denmark who is sent by the church to Iceland in order to build a new parish. But things do not go well for the man. At first he thinks he’ll subjugate the land for God, and then when things go poorly, he begins to spiral downward. But first, I have to give a shout out to CY for the movie recommendation today! Thanks CY!!

This movie isn’t going to be for many of you. But if you like hunting for ironies in and amongst glorious vistas, and startlingly good cinematography? And you have the patience of an ox? Then give Godland a try and see what you think. I enjoyed it, I was constantly being startled as the movie progressed.

Godland Movie Walkthrough and Discussion

In the late 19th century, Danish priest Lucas is sent to Iceland, then a remote Danish territory, to build a church in a Danish settlement. Accompanied by a group of Icelandic laborers and a translator named Hilmar, Lucas sets out to document the land with a camera. Problem? The thing is enormous, and to say that the journey would be hard in the best of circumstances… would be an understatement. But still, he hauls the camera along with him. However, their journey takes a tragic turn after Lucas refuses to listen to Ragnar. Lucas decides that they will ford a deep river, and when they do, the translator drowns. Dead. His one hope for connection with the people, gone.

Now, this does not bode well for him Lucas at all. He actually starts to mentally implode. He falls further and further into an isolationist cocoon of his own making. Until ultimately, he crashes off of his horse, and down into a ravine, where the men haul him physically the rest of the way to the location of the church plant. Ultimately, he is nursed back to health by Carl and his daughters, Anna and Ida, who also help him build the church. Only glitch? Lucas, in a horrible political decision, decides that he will do no weddings until the church is fully built. Worse still? He develops an attraction to Anna that is frowned upon by Carl.

As Lucas becomes more gets twisted up in the community, he begins to suspect that Ragnar harbors ill intentions towards him. When Lucas’ horse goes missing and is later found dead, he confronts Ragnar, who reveals that he has done many evil things, including leaving Lucas to die and killing his horse. In a fit of rage, Lucas kills Ragnar and flees with Anna. Because, sure… a priest, rage… murder? Sounds about par for the course.

Ultimately, the church is completed, and everyone comes for the first service. However, his past catches up to him when he is interrupted during his first service in the finished church by Ragnar’s – remember, the murdered man – barking dog. Spooked by the dog and overwhelmed by guilt, Lucas steals a horse and flees, only to be caught and killed by Carl. The movie ends with Ida finding Lucas’ remains and mourning his loss as she tells him that he will soon become part of nature.

Who is this Ragnar and What is Lucas’ Deal?

It’s interesting – this confession of Ragnar’s. Ragnar had asked for a photograph of himself. And Lucas’ response is much like his response when Ragnar asks how to become a man of God. Lucas acts like he can’t understand him. And then, when they have a translator, he explains it to him in the worst, most abstruse way possible. Here too, after asking fo a photo, Lucas lies. “No silver”, and then he tells him he’s horrible and he doesn’t want to take his photograph. Which, inexplicably, to Ragnar beginning a confessional to Lucas…

I once pissed in someone else’s water.
Pray for me.
I once laughed at someone who was injured.
Pray for me.
I have been selfish, and a coward.
Pray for me.
I have dirty thoughts almost all the time.
Pray for me.
I have let someone die when I could have saved their life.
Pray for me.
I’m full of shit.
Pray for me.
I’m afraid of God.
Pray for me.
I killed your horse.
Pray for me.

So here is the question that is thrumming in my mind after watching Ragnar say these words… Is he messing with Lucas? Or is he really, and truly, penitent? I think that the movie gimbals on this one axis. Similarly, the same question should be asked of Ragnar, when he is asking Lucas about how one becomes a man of God. Same exact situation… is he just having Lucas on? Or does he really want to know? Let’s come back to this question in a moment.

Godland Movie Walkthrough and Discussion

The movie opened with a quote about it being based on real life photos that were taken from a journey like this one. Yeah, that is fictional. There were no photos the movie was based upon. Ok, so, then what are the filmmakers doing by saying this? Well, any halfwit could see that the movie is set in a rare, almost square,1.33:1 aspect ratio. It’s the ratio of a old camera… and so, everything we are seeing is as if it is coming from this vintage viewfinder. It’s as if we have been teleported back in time to watch these events play out through this old still camera. It’s an inspired affectation, that’s for sure. I really was digging it. And as the camera caught the gorgeous scenery of Iceland, everywhere we looked we are treated to God’s divine brilliance. AND YET! “God’s man”, Lucas goes comatose in shock at the harshness of this challenge set before him. He literally quits. Mentally, physically. 100% gives up.

And yet, in the midst of it all, Lucas’ giving up, and his obvious spite for the people, the language, the experience, it’s as if he thinks himself above it all, and everyone. Which, isn’t a good look for a “godly man”. Hell, it isn’t a good look for anyone. It’s a particularly bad look for a priest.

So let’s return to the question shall we? Is Ragnar being honest in his penitence? You know? There is a story in the Bible that sort of parallels this one, and I’d be shocked if it wasn’t at least somewhat a source of inspiration for the tellings here. It’s the story of Jonah. You know the bit about the whale, and his getting tossed overboard… but do you recall as to WHY? Jonah was scuppered and swallowed by a whale? Well, Jonah was told by God to go to the Ninevites – suffice to say, a godless and heathen nation. Jonah basically tells God, “absolutely not.” and books passage the other direction. Enter the whale. He gets puked up on the shore, and decides, finally, to go to Nineveh. And then he gives the world’s worst, like literally, the worst, sermon of all time:

“On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.’ The Ninevites believed God.”

Jonah 3:5

Hahahah. Nineveh will be overturned! Ok. We believe. Amazing. After they sought forgiveness and were repentant, Jonah literally gets snippy with God… “SEE!?!? I told you this would happen!!? I even said it back in my country before I fled (wisely!) to Tarshish! GAH!” (This is the Taylor-Translation, but I’m pretty close to the literal Hebrew here – Don’t believe me, it’s Jonah 4:2.) Now, let’s consider Lucas here. He basically does the same exact thing. He hated the trip, he missed the glory and majesty of the Iceland surrounds. He can’t stand the people. He hates the language. I’d even go so far as to say he has zero intention of sharing anything with the people. And so when Lucas murders Ragnar, we all collectively say to the screen – yup. That logically follows.

My Thoughts on Godland

If you didn’t see the irony between Lucas’ perspective and his role, then I have nothing for you. Here’s the thing… I’m certain that this movie was specifically looking to just toss the church in the drink. That’s fair. But I too, as a Christian, can be so myopically focused on having things my way I miss the “marvel” business. Lucas missed it too. He missed the glory in the people, and in the scenery. He was even taking photographs of it all and he was still missing it. Yeah, I get that. I really do.

After Lucas sees the sign of the dog’s barking, he takes off on a horse and runs for it. He is caught pretty quickly after by Carl… “I have no ambition to be a man of great knowledge. The older I get, the more I realize that I know what I know, and that what I think… is not very important.” And with that, Carl shivs Lucas and leaves him for dead.

But why? Lucas is an idiot. We call agree on this fact. He’s come all the way out to their homes, and setup a church. Okay. And then suddenly he runs for the hills on Ida’s horse. Is that it? Is it because he stole Carl’s horse? That seems really a simple explanation. Is there something more here? Is it the betrayal? The failure for the community? In the next minute we watch as Lucas’ body gets covered in the snow. We are given multiple shots of a horse in various states of decay. We watch as Lucas’ body devolves. And then we see Ida tell Lucas’ remains that soon the grass and the flowers will grow and that he will be in them. And that that will be beautiful.

And as the movie tips its hand in the last minute, we know specifically what the films point is. We know that it is handing the movie viewer a counterpoint to the Lutheran idea of Christianity. It’s saying, yeah… you came with your invading ideas of spirituality, and in Iceland, we prefer to look at the beauty of the world, and hope for nothing better than returning to the flowers, the grass, to the mountains.

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