Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday Night Magical Movies: Erik the Viking

I missed several Monday Night Magical Movie posts, things were hectic leading up to the holidays, but now it's a bright new year, so I shall attempt to reclaim the cinamatic fun today.

Before I do, some may have asked the question, "why movies?" There are actually several reasons that movies are so important to what I do in my art, the most obvious is inspiration. I love the views and expanse of cinema, and it really can be an inspiring media. I love the stories about what it is to be human (or non-human as the case may be) the visuals, the costumes, lighting, etc. can all be a source of inspiration. Often I like to have something going on in the background while I work, so I love movies with great soundtracks, and conversations that make me smile while I work. Interestingly, when I draw I can have a movie going, or have a conversation with someone and it's not a distraction from my work at all.

When I write however, I can't have all that going on, I usually like to just listen to music that I'm really familiar with, or instrumentals, otherwise it's too much of a distraction. Different parts of the brain I suppose. There is one more really important reason to the question, "why movies?" One word, eyestrain. When I work on a drawing I can become so captivated with the proccess that I will end up staring, rather closely, at my work for hours at a time. If I have a movie playing, I actually find myself looking away for a couple of minutes from time to time, and that really helps me to stay working for much longer without going cross-eyed!

Well, that being said, I found a perfect film to watch while working on the black and white interior drawings for the companion book for my upcoming Voice of the Trees deck, the absurdly wonderful film Erik the Viking! This 1989 film was directed by Terry Jones the writer and director of Life of Brian, and really smacks of the classic Monty Python humor.

In this really fun and smart satire of Viking mythology and lore, we find Erik (Tim Robbins) is a Viking who really doesn't have the taste for raping, pillaging and plundering. Feeling guilt over the death of a woman he met while raiding a villiage, he has an exhistential crisis and visits Freya the wise woman, played quite mysteriously by Eartha Kitt. She reveals to Erik that Fenrir the wolf has swallowed the sun, and they are living in the age of Ragnarok. Erik decides to embark on a quest to Valhalla awaken the Gods and ask them to end Raganrok.

Erik leaves his cranky and tough grandfather (Mickey Roony) behind but brings a great cast of characters on his quest, Keitel Blacksmith who all the ladies love, Sven the Berserk is constantly trying to prove to his Dad that he's a proper berserker, Thorfinn Skullspliter, Ivar the Boneless, and Leif the Lucky and many more Vikings. They even bring along Harald, a Christian Missionary who can't seem to convert anyone and is oblivious to the many heathen dangers around him, with humourous results.

On their travels, they encounter the dragon of the North Sea, meet the tone deaf yet idelic people of Hy-Brasil, use a magical invisible cloak, battle their fears and Halfdon the Black, are betrayed by Loki the blacksmiths assistant (Antony Sher) and the use the mythical Horn Resounding to gain access to cross the rainbow bridge into Valhalla and meet the Gods and their deceased relatives and comrades. John Cleese wonderfully portrays the evil Halfdan the Black in his trademark comedic manner. Terry Jones is a riot as the fatally naieve King Arnuf of Hy-Brasil. Imogen Stubbs is charming as his daughter, wise, brave and slightly naughty Princess Aud.

The more you know about Viking lore and history, the funnier this film is, I admit that if you know nothing in the area, it may be only slightly amusing. True heathens will probalby love it.

While Erik the Viking is a comedy, the costumes and scenery are really gorgeous and more accurate to history than you might expect. It's interesting to note that the scenes in Eriks villiage were actually filmed in Norway. Hy-Brasil was actually filmed in Malta, which I think adds to the realism and contrasts in these two societies in this movie. I was pleased to discover, but not surprised that the conceptual artist working on this film was nonother than famed Tolkien artist Alan Lee. You can see his influence in many of the scenes.
I actually watched the version that was on one of the movie chanels, we recorded it on the DVR, but there is also a directors cut available which I haven't seen yet.

I had the pleasure to enjoy this film recently whith snow on the ground, the fireplace going, and a lovely handcrafted mead in hand!

Monday Movie Featured Item:

Erik asked Freya for advice, and why not, she's the Norse Goddess of love and war and the leader of the Valkeries. This print of Freya is a great way to bring Her wisdom into your home.  Available in our Etsy Shop,


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