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Freydís and Gudrid

average rating is 3 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

May 20, 2024

Film Reviews
Freydís and Gudrid
Directed by:
Jeffrey Leiser
Written by:
Jeffrey Leiser
Micaëla Oeste, Kirsten Chambers, Bray Wilkins

Norse and Viking mythology and opera have long been intertwined, with Wagner’s Die Walkure codifying many of the familiar tropes that form most people’s first impressions of the art. Jeffrey Leiser’s Freydís and Gudrid is an enormously ambitious project to bring to screen the operatic realisation of the ‘Vinland’ saga – an epic journey of its namesakes.


Set in ancient times across Norse islands of the past, the film follows a group of merchants and Vikings as they journey to find the land that they deem their heritage. Featuring legendary figures such as Erik the Red (Bryan Glenn Davis) and Leif Erikson (Samuel Druhora), it is the lives of two women – Freydís (Kirsten Chambers) and Gudrid (Micaëla Oeste) that form the background of a legend that will shape the group’s fate.


Freydís and Gudrid will unsurprisingly find its audience first and foremost in those with an appreciation for opera. Jeffrey Leiser’s background in theatre and performance ensures that the musical pedigree in the film is generally top notch, with the majority of the cast given ample opportunity to demonstrate their talent. The studio performance delivers in this regard, with particularly strong performances from the lead actresses and Druhora and Davis as the legendary Vikings.

There are also moments wherein the film takes advantage of its cinematic staging – but these are too few and far between, largely presenting as a filmed performance of the opera as opposed to being designed as a movie. It (perhaps unintentionally) creates a distinct classic-Hollywood atmosphere – further bolstered by the monochrome production. The live performances make this sacrifice worth the while – and as the film stems from a stage production initially, it allows Leiser to maintain the core storytelling elements that sit at the story’s heart. Though certain scenes such as the combat between two of the main characters give a taste of what is missing further throughout the film that would have made it more visually stimulating.


The desolate islands that make up the story’s setting are created by footage of Iceland married to the live footage from the Brooklyn studio performance of the actors. The shoots themselves are impressive, but lack character or dynamism. For a supposedly harsh-yet-beautiful homeland, the static imagery make the background ultimately lifeless and unimposing upon the drama. One lacks an ability to really appreciate the task or scale of Leiser’s accomplishment in marrying the cast to the islands, and immersion is never fully accomplished as a result.


Freydís and Gudrid, is likely to only truly find an appreciative audience with committed opera afficionados. As a passion project of the director, it is a fine and admirable piece of art. Yet it suffers a common dilemma that most opera faces in 2024 – that of accessibility and appeal, even when performed in the English-language. The project never really makes up in cinematic production what it loses without its live element – though Leiser should be commended for bringing the story to life and pushing what can be done with Opera on a smaller budget.

About the Film Critic
Patrick Foley
Patrick Foley
Digital / DVD Release, Indie Feature Film, World Cinema
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