Viking (Викинг) is a 2016 Russian historical action film. Directed by Andrey Kravchuk (Андрей Кравчук), the film is loosely based on the Primary Chronicle, the earliest known written history of Rus’, and the Icelandic King’s Sagas. It has been dubbed “Russia’s Game of Thrones” by Screen International for its dark cinematography and its medieval storyline soaked in intrigue and violence.
Viking stars Danila Kozlovsky (Данила Козловский), known for his roles in Vampire Academy and Hardcore Henry, and Svetlana Khodchenkova (Светлана Ходченкова), known for her work in The Wolverine and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Wildly popular in Russia, the film’s former set has been turned into a theme park near Perevalnova, Crimea. The film’s producers are also preparing to release the film in 60 countries, in the widest international release that any modern Russian film has had.
Set in Kievan Rus’ in the tenth century, the film begins with King Oleg Svyatoslavich holding a winter hunting party to procure a gift for his bride. Oleg’s hunting party encounters armed individuals—friends of his older brother, the Grand Duke Yaropolk Svyatoslavich—who attempt to steal his winnings from the hunt. Oleg scatters the enemy party and encounters Yaropolk himself leading a larger group of soldiers. Oleg flees to Polotsk, where his bride is waiting. However, the city gates are locked and Oleg is killed in a horse stampede. The blame for Oleg’s death falls upon Yaropolk, and, according to Varangian law, vengeance is to be taken upon him by a younger descendent of Ryurik: the young Prince Vladimir. Yaropolk hides on the banks of the Frozen Sea, and is pursued by the elderly general Sveneld and Vladimir.
In seeking to carry out his revenge, Vladimir joins forces with an army of Vikings. As the force moves to attack Kyiv, they find the city empty. Later, on the Dnieper River, the Vikings unexpectedly encounter a Greek ship housing none other than Yaropolk’s wife, Irina, who is attempting to escape to her homeland in Greece. Vladimir takes Irina hostage. This brings Yaropolk out of hiding, and he comes to Kyiv to negotiate. Yaropolk is killed by a sword hidden in the palace, and Vladimir becomes the new ruler of Rus’. His first action as ruler is to restore the buried idol of the god Perun to the temple in Kyiv.
However, as the film progresses, Vladimir later encounters Irina again, who exposes him to Christianity and its redemptive potential. The rest of the film concerns a series of battles for control between Vladimir and Constantinople, and Vladimir’s eventual conversion to Christianity. Vladimir then proclaims Rus’ a Christian land for the first time. Vladimir is known today as the ruler who “baptized” Russia.
Director: Andrey Kravchuk (Андрей Кравчук)
Stars: Danila Kozlovsky (Данила Козловский) and Svetlana Khodchenkova (Светлана Ходченкова)
Production company: Direktsiya Kino
Box office take: $23,344,948