Review: The Littlest Viking

Small scale story about a Viking prince andThe_Littlest_Viking_usvideocover his future and foes. While almost everything you expect from a Viking movie is included, the script is weak and the wigs are silly!

It has long been important in the Norwegian film industry to deliberately cater to all age categories, and as the Viking film genre matured in the 80s, they decided to spend the little money they had on Viking action for children. Basically, their only logical option was to adapt a book by Torill Thorstad Hauger, who in the 70s and 80s wrote several childrens’ books set in the Viking age. The Littlest Viking (original title: Sigurd Drakedreper) is aimed at children aged aproximately 9 – 14, just so you are warned to not expect any brutal violence in this particular Viking film.

Told from the perspective of the young teen Sigurd, son of the local earl, the film is a coming-of-age story about unconnected expectations. The earl hopes and expects his son to grow up to become a tough warrior and leader, while Sigurd is not so interested in violence and takes more interest in carpentry and wood carving. He doesn’t even want to punish the slaves, so he is laughed at and mocked, but when his father the earl is killed during a raid, he must grow up over night, wether he wants it or not.

sigurd3“Growing up” in this case means to reject violence, make friends and be understanding – worthy notions indeed, but this is spread so thick in the story that one wonders if the makers of the film could not maintain two thoughts at the same time, in spite of being a team of two writers and directors. The moral of the film, or message, is of course simplified for the intended audience, but it would have been more interesting if other standards were suggested and tested against the peaceful spirit of Sigurd. The idea of peace and forgiveness can only be shown as radical and strong if measured against other ideals, which a Viking movie can include without problems. The crude versions of justice, revenge and pride, for example, so evident in many movies about violent societies. Here, the consequences of violence is shown as bad in only one instance – when Sigurd’s father dies – but there was no reflection about the necessity of violence, or why it was the way of life for the Vikings. OK, so not everything can be included in a movie, but they could have smeared Sigurd a little less thick and given his personality motivation and purpose.

It is also annoying to see how the 90 minute film wastes much of its time setting up the Sigurd character and some supporting characters, only to prepare us for events that can be predicted from the beginning of the movie. The important aspects of the film is left to the last third, which again underlines the script’s priority flaws. The only original twist that can be found is how Sigurd does not fall in love with anyone, which otherwise would be an expected feature in most movies about a teen boy and his emotions. There are some other smaller positive points in the story, too; the film briefly points at aspects of Viking life as it probably was back then – a strong female leader of the family, the occasional positive relationship between rulers and slaves, and the diversity of the Vikings’ subsistence. These points are not important in the story, and not much time is given to them either, so they are not really doing much to the overall experience of the film.

As mentioned, there is no brutal violence in this film given its target audience, but there is in fact quite a few action scenes, both with and without violence. No graphic stuff of course, but still enough to satisfy 9 year olds looking for an entertaining Viking film. For the discerning viewer however, these scenes are badly choreographed and filmed. Not horse poo stinky badly, just “we have a small budget and no experience in action choreography” bad, another “bonus” in Norwegian films pre-90s. The film is certainly not an epic, particularly in the action department, even though they still deserve credit for trying to pump up adrenalin here and there (not something you’d expect in Norwegian genre movies of the 80s).

sigurd

While kept on a relatively small scale (filmed in only a few locations and on small sets), everything else you expect from a Viking movie is also included; longboats arriving from raids, bearded axe-throwers, helmets with fancy decorations, Irish slaves, thing gatherings and amazing fjord views. Some costumes and houses look wrong, but overall the film is quite realistic and down-to-earth, a tone that suits it well. With that budget, it would have been a failure to try to make it look bigger or more inventive. What the budget cannot prevent no matter how big it is though, is the wooden acting by the professional adults, but that also goes without saying in Norwegian 80s movies.

For children and young teens The littlest Viking might just work, but for adults it is too poorly made to be anything but a special interest item. I recall this movie from when I was young, and didn’t like it much then either, and now I see why. The charming aspects are few and far between, and I cannot get that incredibly silly wig out of my head either!

Rated 4 of 10.

Directed by Knut W. Jorfald & Lars Rasmussen.

Norway, 1989.

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Review: Erik the Viking

As a fan of both Monty Python and Viking movies, Erik the Viking should be the ideal movie for me, and to a certain extent, it is. Around half of the Python gang came together to make this spoof on Viking movies.

Written by Marie H.

Erik, a Viking from Norway, leads an expedition to find the Horn Resounding, which when blowed, will take them to Asgard (the mythical place where the gods live and where Viking warriors go when they die) where Erik plans to awaken the sleeping gods so that Ragnarok, the Viking version of Doomsday, can end.

As a dark comedyerik the viking poster much in the Monty Python vein, Erik the Viking is funny, but not always, and not roaringly funny. Only on a couple of occasions did I more than snicker, but in addition there are some delightfully weird and camp sequences that are joyful to watch without laughing. For example, the fight with the Ocean Dragon or the sinking of Hy-Brazil. It’s probably the best Viking comedy out there, since there are so few of them, but even though I roll all over my sofa when I watch the classic Python movies, this one didn’t catch me too much.

On a deeper level, the movie can be appreciated as making a moral statement about choosing something to believe in. On at least two occasions, choosing what to believe in and then act accordingly is the theme of the action, and generally this is also supported by the monk who joined the expedition; he sees things only he can see because he is a converted Christian, and he doesn’t see things that the heathen Vikings see because they don’t believe in Christianity. This aspect of the movie isn’t really about Christianity or Viking gods, but about anything in life that is important enough to choose sides for. One can’t progress if one doesn’t believe in something and fight for it. A common theme in movies, but presented differently here. It’s perhaps also symbolic and not coincidental that it is the monk who saves our heroes in the end, not once but twice – perhaps a way of saying (within the movie) that one needs to believe in something of substance (Jesus) rather than rubbish (heathen gods like Oden and Thor).

In other respects, I think Erik is awfully miscast. He is played by Tim Robbins who is neither funny, sexy, Viking-ish nor cute. Maybe that was intentional? I don’t think so, because the rest of the cast is excellent in all regards, so why shoot above the target by casting someone as indifferent as Robbins?

If Erik the Viking had not been a comedy but an action movie or a drama, it would perhaps had been better. It’s not so much clichéd as some Viking movies, the sets are quite good and the Vikings look like actual Vikings (at least that’s what one thinks) and if you look for details you will find many historical and factual items in both the story and on the visual level. I know teachers have used the movie in Norse mythology classes.

Rated 5 of 10.

Directed by Terry Jones.

UK, 1989.