EVENT REVIEW: Vikings Season 1 Blu-Ray & DVD Launch

On Tuesday night the British Museum played host to the launch of the Vikings Blu Ray/DVD release.

I had the opportunity to go along to rub shoulders with other media folks, actor George Blagden and the writer and creator for the show, Michael Hirst.

Before the event kicked off David Calhoun from Time Out introduced us to both George and Michael. Michael took some time to explain how Vikings came about and I think we were all struck by his enthusiasm for the show and the research that had gone into preparing the show.

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We were treated to the first two episodes in the nine episode series on a large screen in the screening room of the Clore Centre after which there was a Q&A with George and Michael.

Michael spoke at length about how the first episode would be the maker or breaker of the show, how he had to ensure that we got a sense of the world the Vikings lived in and how their society worked as a whole. He touched on the religious aspects of the lives of the Vikings, how strongly they believed in their living and breathing gods and how they scorned the Christian god who they saw as a dead god, not someone to answer the prayers of his supplicants.

The main character in the series, Ragnar, as portrayed by Travis Fimmel, sees himself as a direct descendant of Odin, Old One Eye himself. The first time we meet Ragnar is during a very brief battle scene but it’s once the battle scene ends that he looks up and he sees the hunched figure of Odin walking the ridge of a hill with his two ravens on his shoulders, that we realise that Ragnar isn’t just a bloodthirsty warrior; he’s a dreamer too, a visionary.

It’s a small scene, almost a throwaway scene, but incredibly powerful and it tells you so much about who Ragnar is and his role within the society. He’s not just a farmer. He’s not just a warrior that goes aviking for his lord in the Summer months, he’s more. And he’s dangerous because he’s intelligent and pro-active. This, is good script-writing!

A question was asked by an audience member as to how exactly he could create a show about warriors who essentially raped and pillaged their way around the world and have these guys be the heroes of the series. Michael responded that somehow the zeitgeist felt right to create a show about Vikings. As they are, to the those they conquered, the villains of the piece Michael desperately wanted to ensure that we saw these guys as more than just bad guys. He pointed out the morally ambigious characters we’ve been getting via a lot of Stateside shows, like Dexter and Breaking Bad. Basically, cookie cutter good guys or bad guys are just boring and no longer will cut the mustard when it comes to entertaining an audience.

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Meet Athelstan

George (who portrays a young monk called Athelstan captured in Episode 2) agreed with this, explaining how as an actor you want demanding characters who are complex and interesting to portray, otherwise you’d just get bored and of course, that boredom would be translated onto the screen and that is never a good thing. Poor George! He was asked about the tonsure he sported in the show and said that yes, that had actually been cut into his hair, much to everyone’s amusement. When asked who his favourite cast member was he just sat there and twinkled at us for a few seconds before admitting it was Travis Fimmel.

The Q&A wrapped up shortly afterwards to a round of applause. I admit to legging it across chairs to get my copy of the bluray signed by Mr. Hirst and George, which they kindly did.

A big thanks to Substance for the invitation to attend the event and to George and Michael for taking the time out to chat to everyone at the event and share so much about the Vikings with us.

The DVD and BluRay is out on sale as we speak.

Reporter: Liz de Jager

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