Set in the harsh climes of 19th-century Iceland, writer-director Hlynur Pálmason’s Godland is a flinty yet majestic drama of colonial arrogance, faith, human frailty and photography. 

At its centre is Lucas (played by Elliott Crosset Hove), a dour young Danish priest charged with a mission to build a church on a remote stretch of Iceland’s coast before the winter sets in. 

A priest with a backpack on walks along the beach. Men follow - another with a backpack, two carrying a cross, and two docking a boat.

Elliott Crosset Hove, Godland. Image supplied

Lucas knows nothing of the place or its people (who were living – many unhappily – under Danish rule at the time) but accepts the challenge, partly as a test of faith, and partly as an opportunity to capture the experience with his unwieldly glass plate camera.

The film falls into two sections. In the first, we set off with Lucas and a company of locals (including a translator played by Hilmar Guðjónsson and a stern local guide named Ragnar) as they trudge across the island’s diverse and difficult...