Icelandic director Hrafn Gunnlaugsson is one of the most notorious figures in the history of his country’s cinema, and of all the movies on his three-decade-spanning filmography, he is perhaps best remembered for the run of classic Viking features he released between 1984 and 1991. All three films, which are collectively known as his “Raven Trilogy” or “Viking Trilogy,” are very much worth watching, including the last one, 1991’s “The White Viking” — also sometimes called “Embla,” after its principal female character.
Loosely inspired by the real-life historical record, “The White Viking” is set during the reign of Olaf I of Norway, who ruled over the kingdom during its transition from the Old Norse faith to Christianity. King Olaf (Egill Ólafsson), a fanatical Christian, is in the process of consolidating his rule by eradicating paganism and the land ownership of Earls. He finally manages to defeat Earl Godbrandur (Þorsteinn Hannesson) and capture his daughter Embla (Maria Bonnevie), who is held captive in a convent. To save her, Embla’s husband, Askur (Gotti Sigurdarson), the son of a powerful Icelandic lawspeaker, is ordered to travel to his home country and christen its people.
The most lavish, assured, and visually accomplished of Gunnlaugsson’s Viking films, “The White Viking” exists in multiple versions; if you can, go with the 2007 director’s cut, which most closely approximates the director’s original vision by putting a greater emphasis on Bonnevie’s character.