Human and Non-Human Agency in Icelandic Film
Partway through Benedikt Erlingsson's directorial debut entitled Of Horses and Men, one of the central characters, Kolbeinn, rides his horse through the remote Icelandic landscape. Indeed, Of Horses and Men is filmed predominantly outdoors, and centers on the relational agency between human, animal and landscape. The Iceland horse, which straddles the human world and the wilderness, the mythical and the real, is dignified, never disnified in Erlingsson's film, nor does the director mobilize the notion that these animals possess characteristics similar to humans. Nevertheless, unlike humans, and usually in order to advance the plot, animal characters are anthropomorphized and personified which enables spectator empathy and identification. An ecological geographer Val Plumwood argues that, in terms of the cultural landscape, humans are invariably seen as focal agents and this interpretation overrides all forms of non-human agency.