The Romans were guilty of gossip. Deviants tagged the walls of the city with scandalous messages revealing pregnancies and salacious behavior of others. I remember learning that surprising little known tidbit in my ancient Greek and Roman art history course in college. How could this pristine powerhouse of civilization as pure as the white marble architectural feats they built be associated with something as lowly as gossip?
Fortunately for the Romans, the methods of archiving their actions were far easier to control than the modern day. Those frustrated with the ineptitude of today’s civilization often look back longingly to the classical civilizations. My public school education only consisted of praise for the Greeks and Romans. Upon learning the Romans indulged in the very same bad behaviors that can be found in any period of history, films such as LAND HO! (2014) can be viewed as endearing rather than repulsive.
We all have grandparents. We all want them to retain that sweet charm of Morty and Lee of Swiffer commercial fame. That’s not what you get in LAND HO!, from Mitch, one of the male leads. The film follows an “odd couple” of ex-brother-in-laws bumbling their way through the idyllic landscapes of Iceland. I was expecting a reincarnation of the beloved Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau pairing with classic slapstick antics and witty comedic banter. Instead we see a pot smoking, girl chasing, and profanity spewing “creepy old man”.
At first Mitch’s behavior is exactly that: straight up creepy. In one scene, Colin and Mitch visit an art gallery. Mitch’s opinion of a female nude portrait focuses on his personal preferences of the superficial features of the woman. Colin, on the contrary, presents a critique that offers insight into her soul. Colin rejects indulging in any behavior that would ruin his reputation as a traditional well-mannered gentleman. Mitch is unruffled by Colin’s obvious disdain for his boyish antics.
The choice of casting and the use of a handheld camera contributes to “humanizing” the film. I wish the filmmakers had committed to a pure documentary approach. They veer into a sentimental washiness of a slow motion montage of male bonding to illustrate Mitch winning over Colin with his immaturity. I also felt as though the establishing shots of the terrain of Iceland were unnecessary and felt like the filmmakers were simply “gaga” over the locations.
One scene in particular redeems the filmmakers of this momentary lapse in cinematography judgment. Mitch convinces Colin to take a spontaneous evening stroll after knocking back a few beers. The genius of the scene can be summed up by the use of a glow stick. These glow sticks made a previous appearance at the night club Colin and Mitch visited in Reykjavík when a high as a kite juvenile in a fur lined hat dropped them into Colin and Mitch’s beers.
Mitch convinces Colin that the light of the glow stick is adequate enough to find their way through the unfamiliar terrain. This scene is beautifully poetic and illustrates the charming use of the glow stick as a sort of beacon of light, a humorous symbol of their youth.
I’m not convinced the human race has been progressively sinking into a cesspool of narcissists. Take a gander at any Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius for example carefully crafted his legacy through chiseled sculptures. Perhaps more ridiculous than his curly locks that defy all logic is his obsession with appearing all-powerful, devoid of any weakness. Mitch embraces what Colin (initially anyhow) and most would characterize as weaknesses, i.e. human vices. Mitch however views them as primitive instincts that we all take part in, no matter the age, and this exposure humbles even the most prude people, especially Colin.