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Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America (5/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 109 minutes.

This is so realistic that it is probably exactly the way things were in the 11h century. 29-year-old Tony Stone wrote, directed, and stars in this fictional tale of the Norsemen who were in America for a short period in the 11th-century.

Set in 1007, two Vikings, Volnard (Fiore Tedesco) and Orn (Stone) find themselves abandoned and stranded by their exploration party in the part of North America then known as Vinland. Orn and Volnard were survivors in a battle between the Vikings and the Abenaki Indians, called Skraelings. Their mates think them dead, so they have gone away, sailing north. Orn and Volnard try to survive and then begin a trek north to try to find their mates. What they do find is adventure.

The film has very little dialogue, and what there is, is in Greenlandic, so subtitles are used. But not to worry, there canít be more than 200 words spoken in the entire film. It is entirely visual.

Stone shot the film on his familyís property in Vermont, and it is pristine. The joy in watching the film is in fantasizing that you are probably looking at land exactly the way it was 1,000 years ago. He captures the isolation of these two Vikings as they are abandoned so far from home surrounded by hostile natives.

On the downside, however, the film is extremely slow. Stone shows them walking and walking and walking. Then they sit around fires and watch them burn. These scenes are the equivalent of watching grass grow.

In addition, he goes overboard on realism. He even has a disgusting scene of Orn defecating in the forest, showing the feces leaving his body. I donít know why anybody would want to watch that or why he would insert such a distasteful scene in his film. Thereís another scene in which one of them beheads a hen and it runs around like, well, like a chicken with its head cut off. Stone admits that what he shows on the screen was real (ďIt fed the crew that nightĒ). These scenes carry realism too far. I donít want to see people defecating and I donít want to see people actually killing other creatures. For the record, I detest sport fishing and hunting unless the purpose is for food. So, even though Stoneís mother made a stew out of the hen and it fed his crew, I think itís inappropriate to show a live killing in a movie.

Even though the film is almost terminally slow, the cinematography is gorgeous and Stone expertly captures the ambience of what it must have been like in North America 1,000 years ago. I squirmed a lot and got impatient with the slowness, but I was transported to another time and place. Stone shows a lot of promise as a director, although he needs to learn something about pace. What this film needs is a good editor with a sharp pair of scissors who could cut at least 30 minutes without losing a thing.  In Greenlandic.

 July 16, 2009