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The Last King (Birkebeinere) - Rounding up the Usual Suspects
Steve's Livejournal
The Last King (Birkebeinere)
SIFF's capsule summary: "Set in the vast snowy wilderness of 11th-century Norway, this epic action adventure, based on historical legend, is like "Game of Thrones" on skis, as two members of a warrior clan raise swords and arrows to protect the infant heir to the throne." (Norway, 2015, 100 minutes, Nils Gaup)
SIFF link: The Last King

In 1204 Norway, King Håkon is killed while his heir Håkon Håkonsson is a toddler. King Håkon is a Birkebeiner – the political party that favored the common people and rule from the northern city of Trondheim – and the Bagler party – favored by the church, petty nobles, and merchants – want Håkon Håkonsson dead too. His mother and a band of Birkebeiner men sneak him away to safety of a remote farm, until a ruthless Bagler and his men figure out the hiding place, forcing another escape through forests, mountains, and harsh weather.

Although knowledge of history provides a spoiler for the end of the story, the adventure is how they get there.

8 Very Good Director Nils Gaup has done several early Scandinavian history films, including the Oscar-nominated Pathfinder. This isn't quite that good, but it's a solid, entertaining adventure film with plenty of medieval spectacle. Writer Ravn Lanesskog changed some historical details (Håkon Håkonsson was born shortly after his father's death, another Håkon was renamed "Gisle" to reduce name confusion, etc.) and invented lots of details that weren't covered in the first written records (some 60 years later) of the events, but he started from a story with a lot of drama – and lots of skis, horses, axes, swords, and snow. The main adult character follows a classic hero's journey.

The acting is generally solid but the story tends to overshadow the acting. The props and sets look good, but I'm not sure they're entirely historical. The camera work is excellent, and the scenery is beautiful. The score is sometimes too much, exaggerating the drama rather than staying subtle and supporting the action on-screen.

The film has its flaws, but the adventure is solid enough that the film works well as an action movie. On that basis, I rate it very good.

Language: Norwegian

Rating: I don't think this film has a US rating (yet), but I'd guess it would rate a "PG-13", on the basis of extensive but not-too-graphic violence.

Screening: 1:30 pm, Egyptian.
Audience: less than one-third full, somewhere between 476 and 590 seats, depending on what sources I check.

Snacks: lots of party goodies.

Ads and announcements:

  • SIFF 2016 trailer — This trailer has a disco theme, and it's a lot of fun.
  • Last Cab to Darwin — This looks like a good old-age drama.
  • Tanna — This is a drama about a war between two hunter-gatherer tribes that is settled by a planned marriage between a young woman from one tribe to someone in the other tribe. Unfortunately, the young woman was planning to marry someone in her own tribe.
  • Thank you volunteers — Time for applause. This clip had a funny disco theme.
  • In-person announcement — I think SIFF Programming Assistant Shruti Swaminathan was the one who introduced the film and the house rules.
  • Short pre-film clip — This was yet another with the disco theme.

Notes to myself:

SIFF statistics: 9 films (all features), 9 time slots, one party. ("J" missed three.)

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