Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America (T. Stone, 2007)
Here is another one of those films I wanted to turn off 20 minutes in that dramatically increased in quality by the time it finished. The film begins with extreme, graphic realism – a headache-inducing exaggerated use of the shaky cam, the camera’s refusal to look away during moments no one has business watching, etc. Though the film obviously prides itself on its gritty realism, the production felt a bit film-school-ish too. Actually, this a flaw throughout. I’m sure the budget played a big part in this, so I’m trying not to judge it too harshly from that standpoint.
Even as I watched this and wanted to turn it off, I was noticing Stone’s ability to mesh the extreme machoism of the vikings with a somewhat poetic look at the land and use of music. Once the movie hits its turning point, these moments basically dominate the viewing experience. (The cinematography and music both seem to soar in quality.) There are a group of scenes where one of the vikings meets a monk and begins a secret friendship that are extremely touching. Watching the man take an obvious interest in the monk’s faith as the two spend time together and teach each other is an amazing illustration of sharing God’s word out of love and true relationship, as opposed to a way to ‘get people saved’. The film uses very little dialogue and relies mostly on visuals to tell the story, which adds to the poetic nature of the film. The film truly looks at the roots of human nature and what it means to possess friendship and faith. 8.5/10