Low budget Danish Viking drama about events leading up to what was essentially the foundation of Russia.
Also known as Rise of the Viking and Son of Thor (and not to be confused with Northmen: A Viking Saga), the story of this historically based independent film reads like hundreds of other revenge films, and surely a dozen or so Viking films; in the middle of the Viking age, the young boy Helgi survives an attack on his village and must flee to his uncle, who raises him as his own son. Many years later, as an adult, Helgi seeks revenge on the Vikings that killed his family. This could even be any 70s martial arts movie! The twist here is that Helgi is also known as Oleg, the Varangian prince who basically founded Russia. The Varangians were Scandinavian Vikings that settled East of the Baltic sea, so this movie is not entirely traditional in the sense that it doesn’t always takes place in Scandinavia.
Where the film is traditional though, is in its story. Even though the link to historical events are interesting, the revenge story is as basic as they come, and there is very little left to keep you interested. One can always hope for some cool battles, nice costumes, scenic locations or bad-ass Vikings, but alas, none of this is present in the movie. The budget was so low that everything looks very cheap and home-made, and that includes everything from props to cinematography. A Viking Saga is basically an amateur hobbyist film where everything that would have cost money is left out. The Viking reenactors used in many scenes are not very convincing, and the bellydancers wear bras that are clearly made in modern times, complete with pads and all.
All this could have been forgiven if the creators had tried to overcome the budgetary shortcomings with some tongue-in-cheek sequences, some over-the-top violence, or at least tried to get the colours right. To say the films looks like it was shot on VHS is an insult to VHS. The film’s DVD sleeve claims the movie was nominated for Best Picture at seven film festivals, which can be understood, considering one of the festivals is called Bare Bones. There must be many no-budget festivals around.
The problem with A Viking Saga isn’t really the low budget; it’s the total lack of inspiration, care and innovation that is on display that is the problem. Low budgets are fine when they push creators to do something interesting that doesn’t depend on money, but when people in front of and behind camera are just unskilled, don’t expect miracles.
The most interesting part of A Viking Saga is that Danish strongman and bit actor Sven-Ole Thorsen is one of the executive producers. He must regret that now.
Rated 2 of 10.
Directed by Michael Mouyal.