Year:  2016

Director:  Andrei Kravchuk

Rated:  NA

Release:  October 26 – November 19, 2017

Distributor: Russian Resurrection Film Festival

Running time: 131 minutes

Worth: $14.00
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Danila Kozlovsky, Aleksandra Bortich, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Andrei Smolyakov, Alexander Ustyugov

...a vicious and sexual biopic that may shock those expecting a by-the-numbers period drama.

Despite earning criticism from historians for its numerous fallacies, Viking was a huge domestic hit in Russia. The film is a reinterpretation of the tale of Vladimir the Great, who brought Christianity to Russia in the 10th century. We follow Vladimir (Russian heartthrob Danila Kozlovsky) from his days in exile through to his conversion to Christianity, with all the brutal battles that occur in between. Don’t be fooled by the mention of religion, director Andrei Kravchuk (The Italian) has constructed a vicious and sexual biopic that may shock those expecting a by-the-numbers period drama.

Viking is surprisingly amoral to begin with; despite Vladimir’s eventual epiphany, the film wastes no time in ensuring we understand where he came from before becoming so virtuous. This means being shown a ‘hero’ who vomits on the battlefield, kills his brothers and rapes his soon to be wife in front of her parents. Whilst the film can be commended for not wanting to sanitise Vladimir’s past, there is no getting away from the fact that this retelling veers dangerously towards sensationalism.

Indeed, there is also a touch of propaganda to contend with as anyone who does not bend the knee to God – particularly pagans – are deemed by the film to be unfeeling savages. It certainly happens too often to be misinterpreted. Equally, it’s hard not to notice Kozlosky has been modelled on the western interpretation of Jesus, particularly once he finds the faith. That aside, Viking is an engaging historical epic, the likes of which rarely bothers the box office nowadays and it’s easy to get caught up in the dramatics of it all. Kravchuk forces his audience to get up close and personal during the film’s tenser moments, and then rewards them with some frankly gorgeous scenery. Bold and ferocious, it may well be the most violent celebration of Christianity on screen since Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.


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