Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Ragnarok Riddle (Gåten Ragnarok)

Last night I went to the cinema to see Gåten Ragnarok (The Ragnarok Riddle or just Ragnarok), a new Norwegian action-adventure film inspired by Viking mythology and history.

In the film, Sigurd is an archaeologist and researcher at the Viking Ships Museum in Oslo, the capital of Norway. He works hard to reveal the mysteries connected to the very rich Oseberg burial finds, dug up during excavations back in 1904. His hard work has partly to do with the death of his wife, and his two children suffer because of his long working days.

Coming nowhere with his research and about to loose his job, Sigurd gets a breakthrough when a friend turns up with a rune stone he has found in the far north of Norway, in Finnmark. Combined with a broach from the Oseberg finds, a riddle written on the slab can be solved, but it only points to new riddles. The writings suggest that Queen Åsa, who was buried in the Oseberg ship, had been travelling up in the far north, and the runes point to a certain lake with a small island, called Odin's eye, deep into Finnmark wilderness.

Sigurd has always believed that some of the Norse myths, many of them depicted as carvings on the Oseberg artefacts, may have had an origin in real events. Many of his clues to the solving of the riddle he has found among carvings on the famous Oseberg dragon heads, originally placed on the richly decorated wagons and sledges in the grave. Sigurd, his friend, and Sigurd's two children, in stead of going on vacation in the warmer south, travel up north. Here they discover far more than they had hoped for. On the small island with its deep and dark caves, they gradually experience that the Old Norse myths come alive, including a huge terrifying serpent exactly like the one found in the Oseberg grave.

The Ragnarok Riddle - Gåten Ragnarok
The Ragnarok Riddle - Gåten Ragnarok

At times the suspense is intense and the film makers use all the well-know tricks to frighten the audience. In most of the Old Norse mythological stories, the dragons aren't flying creatures with a flaming breath; they are huge, slimy, creeping and crawling serpents with enormous jaws hiding in dark and damp places. The monster in Ragnarok is such a beast. It is worth noting that the main character in the film has the same name as Sigurd the Dragon Slayer, but not to reveal anything about the ending of the film, I will only say that the film's Sigurd is a very modern Norwegian Sigurd.

Probably inspired by films like Valhalla Rising and the TV-series Vikings, Norwegian film makers have finally dared to creatively use Norse mythology and the Viking culture. After the misuse of Viking symbols and mythology by the Nazis, Norwegian artists have been reluctant to immerse themselves in this rich cultural inheritance. But as Roy Jacobsen, author of Frost and writer of Valhalla Rising, says in a TV interview, the realisation that the Nazi's use of the Viking culture was indeed a misuse is long overdue.

Recognition to the director Mikkel Brænne Sandemose and writer John Kåre Raake for having made a Norwegian Viking inspired adventure film!

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