"GRACE OF GOD" - INTERVIEW
Daniel Stopa: The title of your movie suggests that animals, which people meet on their path of life, are a gift from God, or even more. This is confirmed in the characters stories - the animals are wise, faithful and devoted to people. Was your idea to tell us something important about relation between animals and humans?
Kristján Loðmfjörð: If the title suggests that Domestic animals are a gift from God, maybe, I had not thought of that perspective. I'm not a religious person but I guess that in a religious perspective our entire life is a gift from God. I imagine that the majority of the Christian people does not consider animals as God's children, neither did they consider people of different races in the times of slavery. On the other hand it is known that back in time Christian people sacrificed sheep in the name of religion as their gift to God. In biblical terms, Grace of God, means that God excepts us despite all our flaws. For the those who befriend with animals and are aware of their wits and faithfulness; it is my opinion that this loophole, the Grace of God, makes it bearable for them to exploit animals.
Let's start from the beginning: Why the idea for the movie? How did you find this people to your movie? Are they residents of one village?
The idea for the film came up when I was reading an Icelandic book from the middle of last century titled “True Animal Stories”. As you can imagine the stories that were told in this book were of similar nature as in my film. Having recently moved from Reykjavík to a small village in the East of Iceland I had gained access to people who are the complete opposite of the city life culture I grew up with. People who are somewhat more in touch with their true nature and free of global ambitions. To begin with I went for a coffee with my good friends the brothers of Sunnuholt and tested my subject on them. They both ended up in the film and gave me several other names of individuals they thought were suited for my project. I picked up my phone and started calling around, one name led to another and so on. In the end my network was spread all over the countryside of East and Northeast of Iceland.
Your film is a very formal. Wide photos of landscapes compiled with close-ups, tight and close portraits of the characters talking they stories. It is an amazing that You filmed the characters reversed back to the camera. And another thing, every now and then returns the religion song. What do you want to express through the form and what emotions provide the viewers?
From the very beginning it was clear that this film was not supposed to portray agriculture or the life of a farmer. That kind of an objective approach would have overshadowed the essence of the subject, which is the relationship between men and animals that goes beyond their role in the hierarchy. Working with the cinematographers it was not our intention to capture beautiful landscapes from a touristic point of view, but to capture landscape that would illustrate these relationships in a subjective manner. As for the characters who turn their back to the camera... well their stories also appear on the other side of our rational being.
In your film, the characters talk about close meetings and relationships with animals. They talk about common life. But in the movie, it is not too much scenes where people and animals are together. There is only one time where a woman hugs a sheep and singing to its, and also we see a video with a man and a cat. Although the characters talk a lot in common life with animals, we do not watch them very often together. Why?
When someone is reminiscing about a dear friend who is maybe long passed away, you should look them in the eyes and take them seriously. This film is not a fairytale about the existence of men and animals. This film goes beyond that, it is about the human spirit, if one life is more graceful than another despite kin or status.
"Long live the sheep by the grace off God"- Words ending movie. We hear them and see meat in the slaughterhouse on hooks. In Poland, this scene would be perceived ambiguously, with a question and a false message. What the movie is received by the people of Iceland? For them, is everything translated by religion?
Along with haddock and cod the lamb meat is the main substance of the Icelandic cuisine so in my opinion no one should be struggled of seeing how their dish is prepared. For those who find it problematic it might be time for them to reconsider their diet. In particular I don't find Icelanders extremely religious, after all the national religion is Protestant, but never the less the fundamental values of every western society is based on the bible. With that in mind I don't think it gives a false message to incorporate religion with the subject of the film. When you value the life of another being it's really up to your conscience and your conscience is kept clean by your values. It's kept clean by the Grace of God.