Saturday, 7 November 2009


Set in medieval Iceland, When The Raven Flies follows the life of a man known only as Gestur (“guest”) as he seeks revenge on the people who wronged him. The story begins in Ireland where a young Gestur’s parents are murdered by invading Vikings. Though Gestur himself is spared, his sister is abducted, setting him off on a lifelong search to find her again. Travelling as an adult to Iceland, he begins his plot to destroy the Vikings by turning their gangs against each other, discreetly killing off members of one gang and framing members of the other. Thord, the Viking leader who had choreographed much of the Irish invasion many years before, is revealed to have taken Gestur’s sister as a wife, who is now largely distrustful of her estranged brother.

Although evidently pro –Christian (the ‘good’ characters openly identify as such), the film does make a valid point about religion and violence being irrevocably intertwined, and the conclusion is not a particularly positive one, suggesting the cyclical nature of revenge. Good use is made of Iceland’s ageless scenery, the volcanic blacks and forested greens forming a suitably melodramatic backdrop for this Shakespearean curio. Gestur makes an interesting hero – a stealthy, amoral outsider in the vein of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. The soundtrack is a somewhat peculiar mélange of fluttering panpipes and resonant electronic drums, evoking anything but 10th-century Iceland. It might not be the most gripping revenge story, but When The Raven Flies still makes for a noteworthy watch.

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