The 8th Century in Western Europe, a time of significant religious tension. When an army of Christian Franks approaches one tribe of pagan Frisians the bloodshed is inevitable. Redbad (Gijs Nabel) is caught right in the middle of the conflict and, before he can defend himself and his people, he has to answer many serious, even philosophical questions. Which religion is better, the old pagan belief or the new Christian God whose supporters seem to be as cruel as the heathens? It is a fact that the Christian Franks considered themselves more civilised but were as prone to a spot of torture or slaughter in battle as their pagan opponents. What side will he choose?
The topic of this movie was interesting but everything seemed to take too long as the whole movie lasts about three hours. I watched it for two hours. Some fighting scenes I simply skipped after a minute or two and I didn’t feel I missed anything important.
Still, the fact that Christianity was presented in this one from a very ugly angle I personally found refreshing. Don’t get me wrong – I am far from taking sides. I simply have watched too many films in which the word ‘pagan’ always equalled ‘baddie’. Here we are shown Christian psychopats who turn christening into waterboarding torture and gladly bless soldiers so they go and slaughter more ugly pagans, women and children among them, with more zeal. Still there was some balance because the heathens were hardly better – we see two scenes with human sacrifices (both of them survived but it was pure luck, nothing else, they were bound to die for their gods). Overall, if you are very serious about your religious beliefs it is definitely a movie you might find disturbing for more than one reason.
Still, my problems lay elsewhere. I had an impression the director of Redbad, like many others before him, put spectacle over historical accuracy. Those Frankish knights wearing chainmail armour were definitely out of place – we are speaking about 8th, not 11th or 12th century. Also large stretches of the film were desaturated and I think they looked rather tedious and cheap than stylish. Anyway, most of what’s included in these sections could be cut. Finallly I didn’t appreciate some jumps in the narration which lacked logic – like the journey of Redbad from Denmark to his native Frisia. Oh, and the dialogues were anachronistic as well, with 8th century people talking often from the 21st century perspective.
An obscure hero, an interesting story from a not exactly popular period of time – this movie had a lot of potential. And yet I wouldn’t rewatch it because it was too long and too bloody.