I had planned this Viking project many months before finally renting Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America. I heard it was about Vikings vs. American Indians, and was set to metal. I though it would be something like Pathfinder (full review) only less stupid. It was much less stupid, but it was also less entertaining. My alternate title for it would be The Blairviking Poopwitch Project.
It too recreates the meeting of Vikings and Native Americans (called Skraelings here) in 1007 A.D., only this time the Vikings flee, riddled with arrows by a force with superior numbers and a proclivity for fighting in choked forests instead of farm villages. Two men are left behind, and decide to make their way north to a settlement, through enemy territory. At first, the slow camerawork and over-saturated colors reminded me of a parody of Terence Malick, and I was very patient with it. It has a documentary feel in parts, and is entirely in Norse with subtitles.
A short time later, we get to watch him take a dump in the woods, as graphic as Pink Flamingos without any of the shock humor, and wipe with leaves. At first, I thought, alright. It’s a survival picture; we never get to see the mundane and boring stuff in movies about survival. This could be interesting, in a primitive survival sort of way. They spear some fish, we watch them cook on hot rocks by the fire, and thankfully they make fire a lot quicker than Tom Hanks in Cast Away. And then, while they are cutting firewood, metal starts playing and one of the Vikings starts headbanging.
Now, I love me some Scandinavian metal. Dimmu Borgir, Moonsorrow, drone like Sunn O))) and folk like Korpiklaani. And I applaud the inclusion of Dimmu Borgir on the soundtrack. But until now the tone has been utterly different. A few hours later they see some monks, attack them because hey, we’re Vikings, and burn the only shelter they’ve found. Milky explained it best: Why are they burning the church down? Because metal is playing. The rest of the story plays out with helpful title cards like “Separation,” so you know they’ll get separated. One guy gets captured by “Skraelings,” and a woman ties him up and hops on his Viking sword. No, you don’t see anything.
I liked arty films better when it meant gleeful nudity, instead of a guy taking a dump in the woods. Will our boring Viking comrades find each other? Can they escape the wilderness? Do American Indians see in weird tunnel vision, as the cinematographer would have us believe? You’ll never know unless you rent this. For Odin’s sake, don’t buy it. Even if you’re a freak with a Viking poopfetish, I’m sure you can find it online. I wanted to like this, but it’s a tedious and pretentious mess. The idea and the concept are pretty cool- even dubbing the entire thing in Norse- but the characters never manage to evoke a personality, and the pointless plot is predictable and so sparse that its running time is mostly filled with shaky footage of a guy lugging a camera around in the woods. And filming poop.