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When the Raven Flies

(Hrafninn flýgur)
Iceland 1984. Dir: Hrafn Gunnlaugsson. 110 min. DCP

The first film in director Hrafn Gunnlaugsson’s epic Viking trilogy, When the Raven Flies opens as a young Irish boy witnesses the slaughter of his parents and the kidnapping of his older sister by marauding Viking warriors. Years later, the now-grown boy (Jakob Thór Einarsson), known as Gest, arrives in Iceland seeking to exact vengeance on the clan of killers and Thór, its leader, who is now the husband of Gest’s sister and father of her young child. Evoking memories of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (as well as the Mad Max series, in its creepy, BDSM-suggestive costume design), this starkly violent and enormously entertaining riff on the spirit of the Icelandic sagas drew the vocal praise of none other than Ingmar Bergman, whose son Daniel served as assistant director on the film’s equally exhilarating sequel, Shadow of the Raven. — SG/TIFF