Review: Trees grow on the stones too

What westerns are for America, Viking films are for Norway. Part of the country’s heritage. Not that the Vikings did so many cool and wonderful things all the time, but neither did the cowboys and bandits of the Wild West.

The story in this little known dragens fange poster2Norwegian-Russian co-production (Norwegian title; Dragens fange. Russian title; I na kamnyakh rastut derevya) starts with a Viking raid in Gardarike (Gardaland), which would later become Russia. A Viking chief and his crew kidnaps a young man, and believe he brings them luck, so they let him live and adopts him as one of their own. When they return to Norway, he falls in love with the local beauty, but she has already been promised to someone else.

The whole Viking concept only adds slightly to the entertainment value of this movie. The overall impression is so bad in many aspects that you must either be a Viking fan or have a special interest in Norwegian movies to find the movie interesting. The story is boring, the actors stiff and wooden (except in their physical appearance – quite realistic) and the dialogue is incredibly bad. Some of the words I am sure weren’t even used back in the Viking age! I don’t really blame the actors – you can’t do that with Norwegian films, because their stiffness is a result of the system we have here, with actors from the stage being hired for movies, and both them and the directors often have little film experience. Neither directors on this film directed much after this project, but as the movie was produced at the end of an era in the Norwegian film industry where social commentary dominated, it seems they couldn’t let the movie loose properly; it had to have some political correctness about it.

To be fair, the action scenes are not that bad. The sword fights have clever choreography, at least for a movie of this scale. But there isn’t enough action to make up for long, dull sequences that could only have been saved by better directing. In the good department, the photography has some nice moments too, with spectacular views of Norwegian fjords, but other than that the movie looks small-scale and cheap. You may come to another conclusion if you want a highly realistic movie, but who wants a realistic Viking movie?

A keeper in your Viking collection only because of the set design, the longship and the rough ways of the Vikings that nearly save a movie that cinematically needs a much better script, first and foremost.

Directed by Knut Andersen and Stanislav Rostotsky.

Rated 3 of 10.

Norway / Russia, 1985

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