‘Their Favourite Film’ blog writer Christopher Roberts reviews ‘Valhalla Calling’ following a successful premiere last week.
Vikings, once known as one of the most ruthless groups in Europe, pillaged and raided lands across
the seas and were feared by many who came across them. Now that fear and infamy they once had on
us is now replaced with intrigue, as, over the years, they have become a bit of a pop culture phenomenon.
Who can blame people, though?
They have a rich and interesting history and mythology and, let us not forget, some amazing beards too. In the last two years alone, we have seen Vikings in tv shows, films and video games and let’s not forget Marvel’s version of the Viking god of thunder; it’s no surprise that people want to jump on the bandwagon. But for Mark Hunter and Ivana Rakic, the people behind Valhalla Calling, it was more than just that; it was a chance to
show off some fighting skills.
“The way this film started was as a showreel for me, so we were thinking, what kind of fights have I not done before? And what would go with my current flow? Because at the time I got my side shaved, everyone’s like, Oh, Vikings would be cool. And we jumped on that idea because Mark is a big fan of history and Viking history in particular, and he has a good look for it as well. So it just seemed like something that made sense to do.”
However, what started as a showreel grew into an epic short film mixed with history and lore, as they decided to tell their version of the Viking legend of Lifthrasi and Lif (played by Mark and Ivana). The film tells the story of two warriors driven by their own reasons to claim victory against each other, watched upon by the Gods
Odin and Freya, who had their own plans for them involving Ragnarok.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the premier and as someone who enjoys Viking mythology, I relished it. Set during a battle between the two factions, each one led by Lif or Lifthrasi, it’s filled with epic fight scenes that were both brutal and well-choreographed, making each fight I saw as entertaining as the last. Yet despite the back-to-back fighting, they didn’t skimp on the drama, giving great performances that helped push the story forward.
As this project grew and evolved, so did the need for more cast and crew. What started as a cast of 2 grew to 15, with an added 19 crew…
Within that cast and crew, 4 were our very own members of EFC, each contributing to an importing part of the film.
In the cast, we had Flavia Ferrettie and Joe Nurding (The same Flavia who did Their Favourite Film Blog with me back in March, which I do highly recommend checking out). Flavia had the role of Sigrid, Lifs younger sister and Like Lif, she is passionate about what she believes in but is more impulsive and ready to take risks for it. Flavia easily captures that in this role and the relationship between the two sisters, showing great chemistry between them. Flavia is obviously a talented fight performer and it shines through in her performance. A particular challenge for her was training to fight with a spear in preparation for this role , “its a completely different kind of weapon to manage because a sword, you got a handle and you know where you hold the sword, whereas a spear, you can hold it at any point, and it really matters what hand you’re holding it in and how you’re spinning it” she relished at the opportunity to learn and whilst watching this film, you would think you were watching two skilled Vikings in battle.
Whilst playing the savage Viking Bjorn, Joe Nurding was also a man who wore many hats as he is credited for four different roles, including Co- Director and DOP. Despite this heavy workload, though, Joe manages to put out all the stops with each role, especially in DOP as he uses the camera shots to perfectly set the tone of the movie, adding another layer to the storytelling. I particularly liked the stylistic choice of going handheld during the mass battle to give a more chaotic feeling to fit this brutal massacre, as it progresses to just one-on-one, the camera is smoother and steadier – an interesting choice, but one that works well.
Then there was the score by Marcus Wood from Fire and Iron Productions. “I tend to work by visually kind of painting pictures with sound. So the only inspiration I needed was the film they’d already created. And I was so blown away by all of the things that I had to watch. And I just took it from there.”
Marcus chose to use limited instruments with a mixture of drums, strings and chorus, creating a soundtrack that fitted into the themes of the film, as well as creating motifs for the two fractions, all of which added more
depth and emotion to the story. Hearing how Marcus did this and seeing the end result makes me look forward to future projects, including that of Bloodlina, his very own Viking Musical, which is
being shown at the Edinburgh Finge Festival later this year.
Last but not least is VFX artist and creative director at Ultra Studio Andrew Gooch. “It was a
pleasure to be involved in the making of Valhalla Calling; working with Joe, Mark, Ivanna, and the
Team was a joy, and I hope we collaborate further in the future”. After connecting with Joe via ESSEX FILM COLLECTIVE, his last-minute involvement helped wrap the movie up nicely, adding the visual
effects to bring this film to life. It’s also always lovely in a violent film to add a few extra blood
splatters when you can.
Whilst I shout out to these EFC members who worked on this film, everyone who
collaborated on it gave their all to make Vallahala Calling such a fantastic film. All the actors trained
hard, and each, with their short time on screen, gave brilliant performances with skilled
choreography to show these brutal yet enthralling fight scenes. The crew worked to bring these ideas to
life and create a stunning short. There was so much passion put into this film, and it shows.
They have successfully brought something fresh and new to the Viking genre, and what started as something for Ivanna and Mark to show what they could do as stunt fighters turned into them showing what they can
do as filmmakers. I look forward to seeing what is next for this brilliant film and what the future holds.
Article by Christopher Roberts
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