Wrath of Gods is a very interesting take on the "behind the scenes" documentary. Director Jon Gustafsson, hired for a bit part in Sturla Gunnarsson's film Beowulf & Grendel but who is also a filmmaker himself, decided to let his own camera roll from the moment the crew arrived in Iceland and document the entire process. What could have been simply a beautiful and scenic documentary showing off the gorgeous filming locations of Iceland, turned out to be a Lost in La Mancha-style "what went wrong" film, as financial delays and filming difficulties began immediately and plagued the production throughout its time in Iceland.
This documentary works on two levels. First (and foremost), Wrath of Gods explores all the production difficulties associated with making a feature film. There were funding problems, a sinking viking ship, car accidents, a fire, and of course the forces of nature that must be contended with when filming in the Arctic Circle (hurricane-force winds, heavy rain, giant waves, and an erupting volcano). The Beowulf cast (including star Gerard Butler, who frequently talks to Gustafsson on camera) and crew were incredibly frustrated, with some of the crew threatening to walk at various times throughout production when there were financing issues and the paycheques weren't coming in. Assistant director Wendy Ord says, in a post-production interview, that people were definitely thinking the production was cursed. Were the gods really against this film being made? One certainly has to admire the risliance of the cast and crew for sticking through a filmmaking experience like this one.
The second level of Wrath of Gods is in its showcase of the natural beauty of Iceland, which is an absolute sight to see. In both good and bad weather (and oh, how the weather got bad), Iceland is incredibly beathtaking. Wven those frustrated with the filming process, such as Butler, are amazed by the unique and powerful visuals of the country. Obviously the intent of the film was to showcase the filmmaking process, and the camera that director Gustafsson brought along with him on this trip is not the quality of those used by National Geographic in nature documentaries, but even so, the country looks amazing. It's enough to make anyone want to book a trip to Iceland (though possibly not during the autumn when the filming took place – winds that can blow SUVs right off the road don't exactly make for the best vacation).
Unlike the subject of Lost in La Mancha (Terry Gilliam's planned The Man Who Killed Don Quixote), Beowulf & Grendel actually did get made. And as shown in this film, it is a testament to the men and women who forged on despite the best efforts of the gods to stop them.
The Canadian theatrical premiere of Wrath of Gods is taking place at Globe Cinema 3 on Saturday, March 3rd at 6:15pm as part of the 2007 NSI FilmExchange Festival. For more information on the film, visit www.wrathofgods.com.
Paul Little is the founder and Managing Editor of ShowbizMonkeys.com. When not interviewing his favourite musicians and comedians, he can also be found at The Purple Room in Winnipeg, where he is Artistic Director. (@comedygeek)