In Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America, we follow the journey of Orn (Tony Stone) and Volnard (Fiore Tedesco), two Viking Norseman who have been left for dead by their ship and fellow explorers in the new world that is inhabited by hostile indigenous people, the Skraeling (Viking for Indian). Without hesitation, the duo takes to the tasks necessary for their survival now that they are alone in this new world. They forsake the coast for the thicket, build a shelter, find a stream to catch fish, each settling into the harsh reality of their circumstances in is own way.
Little time passes before they decide to try and walk back to their Northern home. Since to stay put or to go is of an unspoken yet equal choice of certain death, they head out, half-heartedly musing about the stories their people will be told about their legendary great walk.
The men encounter a pair of monks, whom they promptly ravage. Orn chases down and kills his prey with the raw instinct of lion upon gazelle. Volnard however, moved to mercy by the profound affect Christianity had on his sister, spares his quarry. The monk (David Perry) thereafter follows the men at a distance, forging a strong, unexpected bond with Volnard, all in secret from Orn.
Orn has his own brief, drug induced encounter with an indigenous native woman (Noelle Bailey) who is also following their progress through the woods. These secret, peripheral encounters appear to drive a wedge between the two travelers, in space and time, as well as in nature and philosophy. It soon becomes unclear if they will ever complete their predestined journey, together or otherwise.
Director Tony Stone makes the wise choice in Severed Ways of making the terrain of the world a character in this story. The beautiful majestic vistas of wood and mountainside and shoreline are breathe-taking and shot with great care, almost homage. In fact, it is the landscapes photograph that does te heavy-lifting for this film, imbuing it with its best production values. That beautiful is cleverly juxtaposed against the harshness of raw nature and the strength required to survive in it.
Alongside the grandeur of savage thicket and sparkling waterfalls plays a very small human drama. The film boasts a cast of nine characters, struggling to survive in a gigantic cruel world that threatens and often succeeds in swallowing each once of them whole, one by one.
Based loosely on The Vinland Sagas, Severed Ways spares no offence in its seven chapter depiction of the brutality of the wilderness on man, and man’s own barbaric nature when he encounters people and cultures unlike his own – people and cultures he instantly deems the enemy. Complete with English subtitles, there is very little dialogue or time invested in significant character development. More than performance, the drama and emotional invocation of the film is primarily achieved through sporadic, chaotic camera work, and the curiously eclectic soundtrack with included music from Morbid Angel to Brian Eno to Judas Priest.
Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America opens in Los Angeles at the Sunset Laemmel Theatre on July 17, 2009.
Severed Ways:The Norse Discovery of America
Running Time: 107 Minutes