History is a symptom. The diagnosis is us.
Don’t be misled by the title. The subject of the bloodthirsty medieval epic Viking is actually a heroic figure from Russian history: Prince Vladimir, the 10th-century ruler who abandoned paganism and made Orthodox Christianity the state religion.
Starting out as the ‘half-breed son of a slave’, Vladimir schemes and claws his way to power, overcoming his princely half-brothers and fending off other challenges along the way. It’s hard, at times, to get to grips with the story’s internecine strife, and the odd moment of unintentional comedy supplied by the subtitles (‘Give him the chalice of fury’; ‘Get the Berserker ready’) doesn’t help.
Give it a chance, though, and the film does pick up a brutal momentum. Historians were quick to seize on supposed anachronisms and errors, while others wondered whether Putin saw himself reflected in his namesake Vladimir (played by hunky leading man Danila Kozlovsky). But the film’s patriotic fervour made it a big box-office hit in Russia.
Certificate 15. Runtime 132 mins. Director Andrei Kravchuk
Viking available on DVD & Digital from Arrow Films.