Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America (2007)
|Year Of Production||2007|
|Running Time||104:46 (Case: 107)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Tony Stone|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
Old Norse Dolby Digital 5.1 (224Kb/s)
Old Norse Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English (Burned In)||Smoking||No|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
In Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America we are taken to1007 AD. Two Vikings on an expedition from Greenland to America, Volnard (Flore Tedesco) and Orn (Tony Stone), are left behind when their party is attacked by Skraelings (as they call the Native Americans of the Abenaki tribe) and sails away without them. The rest of the film is Man vs. Wild, 1007 AD in graphic detail. The two walk around, cut down trees to build shelter and make fires, spear, scale, cook and eat fish, kill, gut and pluck chickens, walk some more and s*** in the forest. Then walk, fish, chop and make more fires. They also encounter a couple of Priests and are stalked by the Skraelings.
It is fair to say that Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America has polarised critics – to the extreme. Some see it as a realistic slice of primitive life, another comment is that “it slowly takes on a contemplative and meditative seriousness that threatens to remind you of something made by Werner Herzog (Living in Cinema); the best others can say is that “it’s horrible, tacky, trashy, a cash in and devoid of authentic history or culture” (DVD Holocaust), and that is one of the kinder bits! Clearly the film is the progeny of Writer / Director / Producer / Actor / Editor / Production Designer Tony Stone and so the artistic choices, and the result, is his responsibility. And he has produced a graphic look at primitive wilderness life with detailed close ups of chickens being beheaded or their necks broken, various food groups being stuffed into mouths, tree felling and toileting, forest style. The camera work enhances this primitive slice of life documentary feel; the film was shot on hand held MiniDV cameras using natural light. The result is jerky, with focus shifts, and the camera is often pushed so up close to the actors that the part of their body focussed on moves in and out of frame with nausea inducing speed which is hard to watch. The first 5 or 6 minutes are the worst, but this does recur throughout the film. On the other hand, there is some absolutely stunning imagery of the shoreline and forest wilderness that would not be out of place in National Geographic magazine.
The other positive about the film is the soundtrack which includes music from heavy metal bands including Burzum, Judas Priest, Queens of the Stone Age and Popul Vuh. It is hard to think of Vikings, wilderness and heavy metal in the same image and it really should not work, but it does. This is partly because the individual tracks chosen are less head banging and more instrumental. Another contributor to the soundtrack is Brian Eno and for those familiar with his electronic style one could say that this style is representative of the soundtrack as a whole.
Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America is not a good film. There is no plot, the Vikings sit around or walk around a lot, it is slow moving, some of the cinematography borders on the unwatchable and some of the graphic details of primitive life may not be to everyone’s taste. The acting is amateurish, the sets basic. On the other hand, parts of the film look stunningly beautiful and these images, together with the electronic score, make for some mesmerising sequences. Think maybe Apocalypto on a miniscule budget and with far less action. While the slice of life stuff did not faze me, I was mostly just bored.
Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.
As noted in the review, the film was shot on hand held MiniDV cameras using natural light. Colours were generally good and the forest greens and browns especially looked very natural. The only bright colours on show were the reds of the various fires and a quite luminous blue of the sea in one flashback sequence to Greenland. Blacks were adequate, but the method of filming did affect the shadow detail which at times was very murky. Similarly, contrast and brightness varied considerably depending upon the conditions. Skin tones were generally OK and the detail in close-ups on faces very good, as long as the camera was not moving, which is usually was. I noticed no artefacts except for one mark at 81:40, so within the limitations of the source material this was a good clean print.
Burnt in English subtitles are in a clear white font. There were no spelling or grammatical errors however some of the translations seemed quite idiosyncratic; ”We’re toast if we stay here” and “this fish is really killer” are a couple of examples, but I’m happy if anyone is able to confirm that these are appropriate renderings of the Old Norse.
Audio is a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 224 Kbps or Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 Kbps. The language is Old Norse with some Abenaki Indian.
There is not really much difference between the two audio tracks. Both have the same Kbps and the 2.0 is surround encoded and bass was directed to my subwoofer. There is very little dialogue, and what there was seemed natural except for the scene between 21:26 – 44 when it sounded like it was recorded in a drum. For the rest it was music and effects, as well as ambient forest sounds such as insects and running water, occurring across the sound stage. It sounded mostly natural, although on occasions some of the bush breaking under foot sounded too loud compared to the rest of the sound stage.
Lip synchronisation was universally atrocious. Just as well there was so little dialogue otherwise it could have been quite annoying.
As noted, the soundtrack from heavy metal bands including Burzum, Judas Priest, Queens of the Stone Age, Morbid Angel, Dimmu Borgir, and Popul Vuh plus Brian Eno was one of the best things in the film. It was nicely rendered by the audio track.
|Surround Channel Use|
Mainly a 5 minute sequence of a part of a journey, music and no dialogue, plus a bit on a colourful reptile.
Contains two trailers, both with music only: Ax Trailer (1:33) and Rock Trailer (2:26).
Trailers for other films from Madman: Animal Kingdom (2:19), Sin Nombre (1:57), In the Loop (2:32) and Samson & Delilah (2:10).
The Region 1 US and Region 2 UK appear similar to our version of the film except for trailers and the NTSC difference in the US. No reason to go beyond the local product.
Vikings, primeval wilderness, Indians, Old Norse language and a heavy metal soundtrack. Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America had a lot going for it but unfortunately it is not a good film. Think maybe Apocalypto on a miniscule budget and with far less action, or Man vs. Wild, circa 1007 AD. The video and audio reflect the source material, the extras are minimal.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S350, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|