The Viking Sagas (1995)
Director: Michael Chapman
Starring: Ralf Moeller (Kjartan), Ingibjörg Stefánsdóttir (Gudrun), Sven-Ole Thorsen (Gunnar), yórir Waagfjörx (Bolli), Hinrik Ólafsson (Ketil).
A mythical Viking warrior Kjartan ((Ralf Moeller) seeks vengeance in a good versus evil struggle.
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
A storyteller starts telling an historic tale to the children of the village. He tells them that the Vikings from the future Norway settled Iceland. For a hundred years things went fairly smoothly. Then the evil Ketil the Black fought to make himself the chieftain in one part of Iceland. Valgard the Wolf, the keeper of the ghost sword, lost in battle to Ketil and was mortally wounded. The only thing left to Valgard was his son Kjartan and the ghost sword. But worse was yet to come.
Ketil and his soldiers surround Valgard the Wolf and his small group of survivors. Most of Valgard's men are killed and his son tied up. Kjartan is a big man and very strong, but he is not a good swordsman. His father tells him his plan for his son's escape. He tells Kjartan that he must get away and find Gunnar the easterner, the best swordsman in the area, to teach him how to be a superior warrior. Valgard then tells Ketil that he will choose his own method of death and he chooses the "walk". The wounded man then ties one end of his intestines onto a rune stone and then walks around it until he dies. While this death walk proceeds, Kjartan frees himself, grabs the ghost sword from Ketil and jumps of the cliff and into the water. Ketil tells his men to find Kjartan and kill him: "I can't rule while he's alive."
Kjartan makes his way to the farm of Magnus the Law Giver. Magnus is a prophet and had a vision of a new chieftain arising and saving the land. He will know the hero by a star-shaped scar on his chest. Magnus tells Kjartan that Gunnar was outlawed for killing a man and that no one has seem him for years. He adds that if Gunnar is in Iceland, he will come to the farm.
Magnus asks Kjarten to teach his young son Bolli how to be a better swordsman. Kjarten agrees. Bolli learns that Kjarten has a special interest in his sister Gudrun. Gudrun rides her horse up to Kjarten to say: "Stay away from my brother. You'll just get him killed." Kjarten then learns that Gudrun is to marry a man named Mord.
Gudrun as a young girl had a best friend named Kristin. She was an Irish slave girl who was later freed by Magnus. She later became a servant and now works at Trollwood, the house of Ketil's allies. Gudrun tells Kjartan that she has to marry Mord or Mord will kill her brother Bolli. Kristin gives Gudrun a special drink that will keep her from getting pregnant by Mord and then after two years she can divorce.
Bolli disappears and Kjartan has to go looking for him. Kjartan is right in his bet that Bolli has gone to kill Mord so his sister won't have to marry the older man. But Bolli only gets himself knocked out and Kjartan then has to challenge Mord. Mord wins the contest and is about to kill Kjartan, when Gunnar arrives and starts killing Mord's men with his bow and arrows. Kjartan recovers and in another battle with Mord manages to cut off one of the husband's legs. Gudrun is now officially widowed. Kjartan and Gudrun have sex.
Unaware of Gudrun's love for Kjartan, Gunnar wants to be Gudrun's second husband. He reluctantly agrees to teach Kjartan how to be an expert warrior. But he warns Kjartan that every drunken killer in Iceland will be looking for him, the killer of Mord. At the house of Sighvat, brother of Mord, the call is for vengeance against Kjartan. Gunnar and Kjartan leave to go into the hills to practice the military arts. Hrut the Bowman keeps an eye from afar on the farm in anticipation of Bolli or Gudrun leading him and Ketil to Kjartan and Gunnar.
Kjartan begins his education. Bolli comes to the training area followed by a number of Ketil's men. Gunnar attacks them and kills most of the men. In doing so he kills twice in the same family, which will bring the wrath of the family down on him.
Kristen runs away from Trollwood. She tells Gudrun that Kjartan is in trouble. Gudrun proceeds to the training area and she is followed by Hrut. Kjartan and Gudrun embrace and kiss when they are reunited. From the top of a hill Gunnar sees them and realizes that he cannot be Gudrun's second husband. Hrut sneaks near the loving couple making love in a heated pool. Hrut shoots an arrow that goes through Kjartan's back and part way out of his right chest. The sneaky bowman then comes down to the pool to finish Kjartan off, but Gudrun grabs an axe and plants it in Hrut's head. Gudrun then puts Kjartan on her horse and takes him back to her home. At home her father sees Kjartan's wound and recognizes it as the star pattern he saw in his prophecy. Now he knows that Kjartan is the man to save Iceland.
To save Kjartan and Gudrun, Gudrun's father sends them to the old haunted home of the murderous Haldon. All visitors to the old home have been killed by the evil spirt of Haldon, but Magnus knows that Kjartan's cross scar will save them from Haldon's ghost. The couple finds safety for awhile. But at home, Ketil and his men arrive and accuse Magnus of harboring Kjartan. They ask Magnus if Kjartan is in his home. Magnus lies when he says yes. Ketil then decides to burn the home. Magnus shuts his door and has most of his family leave through a back door. Ketil and his men set fire to the house and Ketil starts to axe the front door open. Ketil gets into the home and kills Bolli who tries to defend his home. Mother, father and Bolli all die in their home.
Gudrun's sister arrives at Haldon to tell the couple that Gunnar has gone mad is is killing people indiscriminately. The couple ride to stop Gunnar. They find him and Kjartan puts himself between Gunnar and his intended next two victims. Gunnar throws a spear at Kjartan, but Kjartan grabs it in the air (like Gunnar had shown him how to do in an earlier practice session). Gunnar stops his killing spree. A group of Ketil's men looking for Kjartan and Gudrun investigate the Haldon home and are killed by the murderous spirit.
Magnus had a plan. He believed that the key to defeating the political ambitions of Ketil was the Council of Chieftains. He knew that following his own death Sighvat would make Gudrun the next law giver. He would need Gudrun to make his and Ketil's plans come to fruition. And if Sighvat with Ketil's acceptance made Gudrun the law giver, this would open the door for Kjartan, Gunnar and Gudrun to grab the chieftainship for Kjartan. Kjartan and Gunnar agree to let Sighvat and Ketil capture Gudrun, which they do.
The Council of Chieftains meets. Ketil tells Gudrun that she better not say the wrong thing at the meeting or he will kill her friend Kristen. At the meeting Gudrun is made the law giver. The first case Gudrun reviews leads to a dispute at which Kjartan makes an appearance from out of a cave behind the speakers' platform. Kjartan starts fighting Ketil and soon all the men are fighting. Gunnar kills a lot of the enemy, but is brought low by two arrows. Sighvat tries to kill Gudrun, but Gunnar saves her by killing Sighvat with his last bit of energy before dying. Kjartan cuts off Ketil's head ending the fighting. Kjartan shouts to the skies: "Father, you are avenged!"
The story teller ends his story by saying that the son of Kjartan and Gudrun became the ruler after his father and ruled wisely and well. He says he has intimate knowledge of the facts of the story because he himself is the son of Kjartan and Gudrun.
Pretty good movie. For a short movie it sure has a lot of characters. But it is fairly standard fair of good guys versus bad guys with the good guys eventually triumphing. Ingibjörg Stefánsdóttir as Gudrun is very lovely, but Ralf Moeller as Kjartan looks a little like a giant with a long face to boot.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
See The Vikings (1958).
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