The Vikings are coming!

Coming to NRK this fall is The Vikings, a comedy drama about the everyday life of the Norse people. “Epic and stupid” are the two words the co-director use to describe the series.

Set in the year 790, The Vikings (original title: Vikingane) starts when a Roman actor, Rufus, is taken to the Norse village Norheim, where he starts a life as a slave. With time he finds a fan and equal in the chieftain’s coward brother, Orm. The two takes the village in a new direction, away from pillaging and wars. Now arts and culture is the thing, a thousands years early! Prioritizing the arts before war will prove to be a great challenge for the Viking villagers. And how will Rufus’ great skills in acting like a lady affect the tough Vikings?

vikingane-7

(Photo: NRK.)

Meanwhile, Norheim’s greatest warrior Arvid enjoys violent expeditions. As he discuss the situation with chieftain Olav, he realize that he is the only one who does not look forward to coming home. All his friends have something to come home to; a wife, a good farm, children and slaves. Arvid, however, has none of that since he chose to ravage and steal most of his life. Soon Arvid must fight a different battle, and must go from being a hero to being a farmer with a very demanding wife.

vikingane-11

(Photo: NRK.)

The Vikings deal with the harsh reality of the Viking age, but not in a serious or spectcular way like some of the more epic and violent Viking dramas as of late. The 6 episode series is basically a comedy with topics such as power struggle, gender roles, love and old traditions. -It’s the story of people from our time, but living during the Viking era. Of course everyday choices have far more dramatic consequences and that makes for great comedy material, producer Anders Tangen said.

Co-director and writer Jon Iver Helgaker said to the newspaper Dagbladet that he got the idea after having watched the vampire comedy What they do in the shadows. Various vampire movies and TV dramas like True Blood had sunk its fangs in our entertainment space, “and that’s when it is natural for comedy to be the next step” Helgaker said. He also saw TV shows such as Vikings and Game of Thrones as signs of why comedy in the same universe would be viable. -Epic and stupid are the two words I’d like to use to describe the series, he concluded, while also mentioning The Office as an inspiration.

(All photos: Copyright NRK.)

An English version of the TV series has been produced for foreign markets. Producer Anders Tangen (Lilyhammer, Dag) believes the “Monty Python meets Game of Thrones” spoof series will have international appeal. -It [also] allows us to bypass the remake option, plus Norwegian actors who speak fluently English can use this as a calling card to boost their international career, he said in a press statement. About the filming of the series, he explained: -Basically we shoot on average four takes for every scene, three takes in Norwegian and one in English, then we take the versions to the studios and work on lip synching to make each version cleaner. If it works, it will be revolutionary. We’re also [shot] 14 days in parallel to make the filming shorter, with two directors, so the cost for the entire series remains very low.

Public broadcaster NRK has already ordered a second season, currently shceduled to air in fall 2017. You’ll probably watch it if you can’t get enough of the urination in faces, drinking of spit and cutting off ears that are some of the jokes in season one. The Vikings is one of very few Viking TV dramas made in Scandinavia and the first since the sitcom Home to Midgard in 2003.

The Vikings, which was filmed over three months at a replica Viking farm at Avaldsnes in Karmøy in Western Norway, stars some of Norway’s most famous actors: Trond Fausa Aurvåg, Marian Saastad Ottesen, Nils Jørgen Kaalstad, Jon Øigarden, Kåre Conradi, Henrik Mestad, Kristine Riis, Ingar Helge Gimle and Silje Torp.

The series has been concieved, written and directed by Jonas Torgersen and Jon Iver Helgaker and will be shown on NRK’s website from October 14 (all episodes) and on TV from October 21.

Trailers and clips:

Review: Asterix and the Vikings

asterix dvdThe highly successful Franco-Belgian comic book hero takes to the seas to rescue a young man, in this 14th animated feature about the proud Gauls in historical Northern France.

Most Europeans know the two characters Asterix and Obelix, the heroes of the beloved comic written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo. Created in 1959, the series follows the exploits of a village of indomitable Gauls as they resist Roman occupation. 36 books have been published until now, taking the format of stand-alone graphic novels. More than a dozen movies have been made from the stories, both animated and live action. Asterix and the Vikings is the 14th movie in the franchise, depending on wether you count unreleased movies or not. Based on Asterix and the Normans from 1966, the film takes some liberties with the story and adds both events and characters, but let’s look at the movie on its own feet.

Though not a straight Viking movie, of course, Vikings are included to a large extent, with large portions of the story taking place in Norway, in the icy fjords where the Vikings have built their cabins. The reason for travelling there was to retrive the son of chief Vitalstatistix, the sensitive and artistic Justforkix, who was kidnapped by the Vikings after having raided an empty village. Howver, Justforkix has fallen in love with the Viking king’s daughter Abba.

The story is quite straight forward, and somewhat on the thin side, but in a movie like this, originality is perhaps not the most important criteria. Familiar characters, fun gags, jokes, traditional scenes like boar eating and nicely drawn images go a long way, and on those accounts this movie delivers. I’m no Asterix purist, and found the artwork to be entertaining in itself, both in terms of details, colours and similarity to the comics. The humour is quite juvenile and may not appeal to adults, especially when it become a little repetitive, but there is a fine balance between character moments, laughs and action. The film is never boring, although it is more the sum of all the parts than specific moments that keeps the movie’s head above water.

asterix characters

One major thread in the movie, which at the same time is the film’s major weakness, is the gender politics projected through the two young lovers, Abba and Justforkix. The girl hates being a girl and wants the advantages of men, while Justforkix has no interest in war and bravery. The idea seems to be to have two characters that break free from the traditional male and female mould. The only problem is; they are both big-mouthed winers who, when it comes down to living the way they talk, manage nothing. For example, one would think that Abba is going to be a nice role model for little girls who want to grow up and choose their own path, but in reality in the movie, Abba is still captured by men, put in a cage by men and later rescued by a man. She does not act her part, one could say. The same goes for Justforkix. It’s a nice idea to promote gender empowerment to child viewers, but in effect, there is nothing here that supports that idea.

This flaw is quite hard to overlook. It’s much easier to forget the fact that the Asterix stories takes place several hundred years before the first traditional Vikings came to be; the earliest recorded raids by Norse seafarers took place nearly 750 years later than the times of Asterix. Never mind that, the comic book and this movie are fantasies anyway.

Asterix and the Vikings is decent entertainment but it does feel a little uninspired, with some repeated gags and predictable jokes. Maybe that’s not a surprise when you have more than a dozen movies to live up to and respect, and maybe it will be better received by children or the fan crowd than Viking fans.

Rated 6 of 10.

Directed by Stefan Fjeldmark & Jesper Møller.

France & Denmark, 2006.