One’s interest in Jeffrey Leiser’s debut feature film “Freydis and Gudrid” can be decided by what one’s reaction would be to the statement, “The entirety of it is sung.” If you flinch, are surprised, or even mildly annoyed by that statement, chances are you wouldn’t have a completely different reaction by the end of the film’s 1 hour 55 minutes runtime. However, if you are a long-standing fan of opera as a medium and belong to the niche audience that has the attention span of a fish, you might find some novelty in this ambitious treatment of the Vinland Saga.

For as long as time itself, the sagas of Vikings have often been about really angry men fighting each other to death because of some kind of misplaced ego or the need for more. Violence has often been the center stage of said tales about revenge, power, and control, and they have, for as far as I remember, been guilty of completely disregarding what this does to the women around these men. So, the title “Freydis and Gudrid” itself felt like someone was trying to tap into this uncharted territory. 

Director Jeffery Lesiser, who has taken up multiple roles in writing, composing, editing, and producing the film, has a background in opera. He sets up the film in legends, in particular, the Saga of Erik the Red. The story, which is set in 1004 A.D in Greenland, kicks off when a tradesman named Haki (Rayon Geis) arrives back home after the death of his leader Vald. Since Vald, who was the son of Erik (Bryan Glenn Davis), was killed in a conflict with a tribe that supposedly came in the way of his trade, his father’s eyes are now bolting with revenge.

A still from Freydís and Gudrid (2024).
A still from Freydís and Gudrid (2024).

Vald’s sister Freydis (Kirsten Cambners), along with Karlefsni (Bray Wilkins) – one of Vald’s close associates, decide to take the arduous voyage to bring justice to the death of their own. The two of them are accompanied by Gudrid (Micaela Oeste), Karlefsni’s worrisome and loving wife, and Thorvard (Daniel Klein), Freydis’ husband, whose cunning and conniving ways have no bounds. Together, all of them set out to far-off lands, only to discover that what they had assumed about the said tribe was wrong. 

Now, this is only a part of the three-act structure that Leiser follows in his tale, which is shrouded in tragedy. It’s a story that is tailor-made for a stage performance, which is why it feels odd to see it in a movie format. Most of the singing and a large part of the music and lyrics are not very memorable, making the film less than intriguing. The performances are also uninspired, with most of the actors, who are all professionals, succumbing to the confused nature of this theatrical presentation. Emotionally speaking, none of the film’s themes of loss, tragedy, and grief ever seem to come to the surface, and just when you think Lesiser would dive into what the aftermath of masculine decadence has on the women who suffer like bystanders, the film ends. 

The said, this is an ambitious production for the shoestring budget that Lesiser is working with here. His production design is incredible, with the use of special effects over the soundstage foreground allowing us to see a unique perspective from his side. Props to him for making the entire thing feel like a throwback to motion pictures from yesteryears; if only the film had started where it ended, the tale would have felt a lot more interesting. 

Read More: The 10 Best Movie Musicals in Cinema

Freydís and Gudrid (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomaotes, Letteboxd
Freydís and Gudrid (2024) Movie Cast: Micaëla Oeste, Kirsten Chambers, Bray Wilkins, Daniel Klein, Samuel Druhora, Bryan Glenn Davis
Freydís and Gudrid (2024) Movie Release Date: 7th July 2024 | Genre: Drama/Musical/Romance | Runtime: 1h 55 Mins

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