Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Beast's Movie Cave- Severed Ways- The Norse Discovery Of America

Hail, All! I've had PC problems, and been on a much-needed vacation, but I'm back, and I've watched a lot of movies...Severed Ways being one of the more interesting ones.

This film tells the story of two Norsemen, Ord( played by Tony Stone, who also wrote and directed the film), and Volnard ( Fiore Tedesco), who are stranded in what will later be known as North America. The Norse, who arrived there hundreds of years before that Colombus guy, tried to set up shop there, but ran afoul of the natives, or 'Skraelings', as the called them. A huge battle took place, and the Norse decided to pull up stakes and head out. Ord and Volnard were sent into the woods to scout , and were assumed dead, therefore left behind. Severed Ways tells of their struggle for survival, which not only deals with finding food and shelter, but encounters with the Skraelings, a pair of Irish priests, spirituality, religion, and ultimately each other.

Severed Ways is not yout typical Viking movie. While the backdrop of Nature in the film is of epic proportions (more on that later),the story ityself is not of the epic scope one usually sees in a Viking movie. The story isn't about lords or kings, or revenge, or a treasure hunt, but simply about two guys left behind in a strange land, dealing with the outer and inner problems they face. The film's website ( describes the story as an 'inward adventure', and that's a pretty good way to put it, I think. The way the film was shot also marks it as a different kind of Viking movie. It was shot digitally, using only available light, giving it almost an indie/documentary feel at times ( this is definately an indie film, after all). There is also very little dialog in the film, and when there is its in Old Norse, subtitled in English. The soundtrack is unique as well, with instrumentals by Brian Eno and Popol Vuh, as well as music by Judas Priest, Dimmu Borgir, Burzum, and Morbid Angel. The inclusion of this music may seem jarring when put with the primitive scenery and setting, but it actually works , especially the Black Metal bands.

The landscape in this film is breathtaking. It was shot in West Virginia and Newfoundland, primarily, and there are many scenes of beauty to counterbalance the overall grittiness of the story. One such scene that comes to mind is Volnard's flashback, where he follows his sister to her meeting with her lover, who is a Christian. The violent and tragic result of this event is a counterpoint to the natural beauty around the characters...but then, Nature has been witness to all sorts of human drama, I suppose. This flashback also gives us some backstory that goes toward explaining Volnard's sparing of one of the priests they stumble upon (Ord, strongly of the old-school worship of Odin and Thor, is not so gracious to the other priest), and his subsequent intoduction to Christianity.

I've read several reviews of Severed Ways, and I disagree with a lot of them. Many reviewers didn't like the fact that the subtitles were in modern English , such as when they're on the shore and decide to move inland, or they'll be "toast". I didn't have a problem with it, myself...I think that because of old Hollywood films, we expect people in period pieces to say 'thee' and 'thou' a lot. I'm pretty sure they didn't talk quite like that. Another so-called 'critic' claimed that Ord said Odin's name so many times you could make a drinking game out of it. I watched this film twice, and I only caught about 3 or 4 times Odin's name was invoked...since the character was a worshipper of the Norse gods, this was in character and not overdone. I think that some critics are too busy trying to make snarky comments in an attempt to seem clever and miss the film they're supposed to be watching. I think, too, that the subject of Vikings is similar to the Metal music used in the film's soundtrack...either you get it or you don't, and often those who don't feel the need to ridicule it, in a vain attempt to seem cool or clever. Guess what-you're neither. Then again, these are two subjects close to my heart, so I may be a bit biased. Ok, end of rant.

Obviously, I liked Severed Ways. There were a few things I didn't like. One, the shaky camera work at the film's beginning , which settles down, thankfully. I also could have done without the scene where Ord takes a dump in the woods...I know they were striving for gritty authenticity, but I think we all assumed that like bears, Viking shit in the woods, and didn't have to have visual proof. These instances aside, I felt that this was an interesting and unique film. On the DVD there's also some atmospheric footage of the elements, which is kind of a cool extra, especially for those of us without fireplaces ...just pop the disc in and watch 'Fire'.

If you're up for an unusual Viking film that's violent, beautiful, harsh, and lyrical in turns, then give Severed Ways a try. It comes with the Beast's Seal of go get a shank of beef and a horn full of mead, and watch.


Heff said...

Exactly where can I procure a Horn full of mead ?

Never seen a Viking film. Looks interesting.

Scott said...


You can probably find mead at a good liqour store...some of the grocery stores down here carry it in the wine section,too. A drinking horn can be found at most Rennaisance faires, or on the Innermet. Or, you could visit me,LOL!

Other Viking films I liked are 13th Warrior and The Vikings. Check 'em out!

Paul R. McNamee said...

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I've always been fascinated with the Norse discovery of North America.

I definitely need to watch this one.

BTW - have you ever read the Greenland Saga(s)? Penguin has an edition. They are short, but fascinating.

Scott said...


It's been a while, but I have read them, along with the Icelandic sagas as well.