Dir. Bergur Bernburg, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson
Starring: Georg Gudni, Viggo Mortensen
Review By Greg Klymkiw
With his painterly eye for humanity and landscape, it seems fitting that Iceland's very own John Ford, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson (Children of Nature, Cold Fever, Devil's Island) has co-directed Horizon, a revelatory documentary portrait of the late, great painter Georg Gudni. Like Ford's beloved Monument Valley, Iceland's landscape has provided a stunning backdrop for Fridriksson's extraordinary canon and I can think of no better filmmaker to bring cinematic mastery to the subject of his old friend Georg Gudni.
Working with what feels like a lifetime's worth of footage of Gudni at work and in interviews, all shot by co-director Bergur Bernburg in collaboration with journalist Bill Rathje, Fridriksson has fashioned an indelible portrait of an artist who singlehandedly brought respectability back to landscape painting - a form often derided by Western art critics and practitioners in recent decades.
Gudni, however, saw something else in the landscapes around him - he was, after all, living in the land of the Askja calderas amidst the mighty, roiling volcanoes of the Dyngjufjöll mountains - an environment so topographically barren (though heartbreakingly beautiful) that it served as a training ground for the Apollo astronauts prior to their moon missions. Iceland is, in spite of its mountainous terrain, a land where the horizon seems infinite and Gudni's eye viewed layers upon layers of ever-so subtle shifts in both land and air.
If Heaven was on Earth, Gudni's remarkable paintings captured it again and again.
The superb footage of Gudni is expertly woven with interviews from a variety of artists, critics and academic historians, but perhaps most fascinating are the sequences with actor Viggo Mortensen, a dear friend, patron and publisher of Gudni's work. All these other voices lend support to Gudni's own words and actions, but Mortensen's observations might be the most moving and passionate of them all.
The other valuable element of Horizon is the jaw-droppingly stunning cinematography which matches the locations and even perspectives of Gudni's art. With the eye of a painter, Fridriksson and his collaborators take us into territory where the landscapes, the horizon, the remarkable light of Iceland weaves its magic before of our very eyes and melds into Gudni's paintings with the flow, force and fiery beauty of lava itself.
Yes, John Ford had Monument Valley, but Gudni and Fridriksson have Iceland - the backdrop of dreamers, poets and visual artists of all stripes - and thankfully, we have this film to make us all familiar with the work of one of the great artists of all time, to capture his genius and beauty forever.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars
Horizon receives its World Premiere in the TIFF Docs program at TIFF 2015. For dates, times and tix, visit the TIFF website HERE.