🇳🇴 THE LAST KING 🇳🇴
THE LAST KING (2016) aka Birkebeinerne is a Norwegian action, drama, war, history movie. Available Amazon Prime Video 15 Cert U.K. Subtitles.
Jakob Oftebro as Skjervald
Kristofer Hivju as Torstein
Torkel Dommersnes as Egil
Ane Ulimoen as Inga
Nikolaj Lie Kass as Orm
Pål Sverre Hagen as Gisle
Åsmund Brede Eike as Stale
Thorbjørn Harr as Inge
Thea Sofie Loch Næss as Kristin
Jeppe Beck Laursen as Audun
Fridtjov Såheim as Gard
Benjamin Helstad as King Håkon
Stig Henrik Hoff as Erlend
Lia Boysen as Queen Margrete
Director: Nils Gaup
Cinematographer: Peter Mokrosinski
Writer: Ravn Lanesskog
Music: Gaute Storaas
Production Design: Karl Júlíusson
“In the year 1206 Norway is raged by civil war. The King’s illegitimate infant son, Håkon Håkonsson, who half the kingdom wants killed off, is guarded in secrecy by two men. A story which changed the course of the country’s history.”
The Birkebein Party or Birkebeinar (Old Norse: Birkibeinar; Norwegian: Birkebeinarane or Birkebeinerne was the name for a rebellious party in Norway, formed in 1174 around the pretender to the Norwegian throne, Eystein Meyla. The name has its origins in propaganda that the rebels were so poor that they made their shoes from birch bark. Although originally a pejorative, the opposition adopted the Birkebeiner name for themselves, and continued using it after they came to power in 1184.
Today, the Birkebeins are celebrated for having escorted the two-year-old heir to the Norwegian throne, safely from Lillehammer to Østerdalen and then to Trondheim. A long and perilous journey through treacherous mountains and forests. This is commemorated through the Birkebeinerrennet cross country ski races and Birkebeinerrittet bike race, as well as the American and Canadian Birkebeiner races.
The cinematography in this movie is fabulous, as are the locations. The sound design is also a strong feature, if you have surround sound you will love this. Costuming and set design are really good as well. The choice of the contrasting colour palettes works really well (somewhat Game of Thrones).
The ski sequences are amazing!! That they are using the wooden skis of the time, along with the pole to steer, is a great authentic historical touch. Aside from that it is the range of skiing we see: clear expanses of pure driven snow, skiing within the forests, plodding uphill, big jumps and even bigger falls. All very impressive and any lover of skiing will really appreciate this. Kudos to the stunt team for all their work in this, it’s impressive!
The fight choreography is very decent and the use of the natural terrain is a definite plus point. I did love the way that the various chase scenes were planned out and executed. Chases on horses (smart and appropriate Fjords and Icelandics), on skis, with sledges. All very exciting!
The scenes with the two men and the baby are lovely, and a wonderful contrast to the violence. The use of the small wooden toy horse as a storytelling object really racks up the emotional effect, with backstory colliding with the present. There are really solid performances by the whole cast here, with Jakob Oftebro really impressing.
I do feel that this film suffers through not enough exploration of the “bad guy”, his motivations and why he still had people loyal to him etc. I could have done with 10-15 more time in the film to establish this. Some parts of the story were telegraphed too early (and sometimes unnecessarily).
Final question: does Pål Sverre Hagen EVER play a good guy?
Overall: a recommended watch especially if you enjoy historical drama and even more so if skiing is your “thing”.
The Last King won the prize for Best Music at the Trondheim International Film Festival, 2017. It was also nominated for Best Production Design.
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