Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America is noteworthy for being the first — and, hopefully, the last — theatrical release shot in high-definition close-up to show a guy taking a dump in the woods. Despite this scene's inclusion from the "too much information" department, writer-director-star Tony Stone's Viking docudrama is one of the more beautifully shot films of the year ... so long as the camera is standing still.
The year is 1007 AD. Two Norse explorers have been presumed dead and abandoned in Vinland, the name given by the Vikings to the new land that would eventually become known as North America. Orn (Stone) and Volnard (Fiore Tedesco) face a struggle for survival, as well as threats posed by Christian missionaries and the natives termed "Skraeling" by the explorers.
Stone's devotion to historical accuracy (the actors even speak in ancient Norse) on an indie budget is undeniably impressive, even with the aforementioned forest defecation episode (well, where else were Vikings supposed to defecate?). One of the film's locations at the northern tip of Newfoundland was where evidence of a Norse settlement was discovered in the 1960's.
Also impressive is Stone's visual eye, aided by his talented cinematographers Nathan Corbin, Damien Paris and several others. While hand-held camera shots aren't as successful in hi-def, resulting more often than not in confusion and/or nausea, the widescreen location shots are breathtaking.
Curiously, Severed Ways also employs music by such black-metal stalwarts as Judas Priest, Queens of the Stone Age and Brian Eno. While their contributions aren't inappropriate from a musical standpoint, it isn't clear exactly what parallels or connections Stone is drawing by using contemporary rock. Are we to think of the Vikings as the original head-bangers, lengthy golden locks and all?
Severed Ways gets long for a largely dialogue-free feature. Nonetheless, guys and gals with Viking fetishes will likely be in their glory. If not wholly successful, the movie nonetheless establishes Tony Stone as someone to watch in the future.
Click here to watch the trailer for Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America.
UPDATE: Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America is now available on DVD from Amazon.com.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.