Review of 'Freydis and Gudrid': This ancient Icelandic musical hits some right notes, misses some

A historic tale, set to music and lyrics, of a merchant tribe that traverses Iceland, Greenland and “Vinland”.

Jun 1, 2024 - 12:09
Jun 1, 2024 - 13:56
Review of 'Freydis and Gudrid': This ancient Icelandic musical hits some right notes, misses some

Freydis and Gudrid: This ancient Icelandic song is not music to all ears

Cast: Micaela Oeste, Kirsten Chambers, Bray Wilkins, Daniel Klein, Samuel Druhora, Bryan Glenn Davis, Raymon Geis, Rocky Duval, Michelle Jennings, Flavius Druhora, Rache Yazzie, Luis Ramos, Leo Kubota, Benairen Kane

Critic’s Rating: 3 Stars out of 5

Director: Jeffre Leiser

Duration: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Genre: Musical, Drama, History

Language: English

Release: 2024

What’s it about?

A historic tale, set to music and lyrics, of a merchant tribe that traverses Iceland, Greenland and “Vinland”.

Review:

Musical films are hard to come by these days, so Freydis and Gudrid makes for quite a welcome entry to the genre. However, this melodious celluloid venture which draws from the Icelandic sagas of the 11th Century, doesn’t always hit the right notes. Yes, love, war and travel figure in this narrative of merchants and Vikings, while themes of loyalty and revenge also play a significant role. But while conveyed in operatic-style vocals by classically-trained singers who work with articulate lyrics, the film’s musical rendering is at best uneven. Fans of Opera might be enthused while those who aren’t, could experience tedium at times.

In the year 1004 A.D., a tradesman named Haki (Raymon Geis) arrives on the shores of Brattahlid, Greenland as a bearer of bad news. Vald, the leader of their mission to neighbouring Vindland, has been killed in battle with a warring tribe. Vald’s death leaves his father Erik (Bryan Glenn Davis) grief-stricken while the former’s friend Karlefsni (Bray Wilkins) seethes with a desire for revenge, as does Vald’s sister Freydis (Kirsten Chambers). While the patriarch approves of Karlefsni’s plan to return to the embattled location, he disallows his only other son Leif (Samuel Druhora) from tagging along, as he doesn’t want to imperil the family lineage. Meawhile, Karlefsni reluctantly allows his loving wife Gudrid (Micaela Oeste) and the wily Freydis to join in on the voyage.

The group encounter formidble sea waves, but their sturdy "steedy" gets them to Vinland in one piece. On coming into contact with native inhabitants there, Karlesfsni and Co. are in for something of a surprise. Trade appears to be taking the place of conflict. However, the embittered Freydis and her male ally Thorvard (Daniel Klein) are desperate to uncover the truth behind Vald’s demise and take the guilty to task. Suspecting that one of their own had conspired with the natives to kill Vald, the duo hatches an ugly scheme. When matters come to a head, a disillusioned Karlefsni brings back his team to Brattahlid. On arriving, he is warmly greeted by Vald’s brother Leif.

However, the bonhomie soon turns to animosity with startling revelations abound involving Karlesfni, Leif, Gudrid and Freydis. To add to the anguish and resentment, Thorvard finds himself at the receiving end of nasty accusations. Will all the concerned people pick up the pieces of their broken relationship? This tale is crafted well enough to keep the audience wondering. There is also enough of varied human emotion here to evoke sympathy and empathy.

The singers’ several elongated notes in overbearing vibrato and occasionally overlapping vocals bog down the narrative. Hence, dramatic scenes are longer when they could have been shorter and tighter. However, composer-writer-director Jeffrey Leiser has decidedly made a novel kind of film whose sweeping cinematography, detailed production design and accurate costumes serve as its plusses. These help to transport the audience to an ancient era in a relatively remote corner of the world. Freydis and Gurdrid sings the song of the Scandinavian people. Now, if only the music was more appealing for the viewers to not just sing along during the film but also remember it long after the end credits roll. After all, isn't that what musicals are all about?

Ronak Kotecha Senior Journalist and seasoned content creator with 18-years-experience at channels like Times Now, NewsX, Zoom and Radio City. Now, Rotten Tomatoes accredited global critic for the Times of India and BBC India Correspondent in Dubai. Talk show host at Talk100.3, tune in weekdays at 11 am on talk1003.ae