A new short film by young New Zealander Liam Van Den Berk tells the story of two Norse sisters captured by invaders who then make a brave escape from slavery. 

Running for an emotive, captivating eight minutes, The Landvættir has just been released. 

The Viking Herald speaks with the first-time filmmaker from Hawke's Bay, with peaks and seascapes of New Zealand's North Island shaping the contours of this film. 

Norse mythology meets Mother Nature 

The Landvættir starts with the narrator, the lead character Eva, speaking English with an Icelandic accent, describing the "vast expanse of Nordic lands" as the camera pans over the waves towards the forest. 

"We filmed on the coast of Coromandel, New Zealand, one of my favorite destinations here," says the 27-year-old self-taught cinematographer and director. 

"The main reason we filmed at this location was that it had all we needed within a short travel time. The vast forest and seaside right beside us made it attractive for a quick turnaround time." 

With high production values, gorgeous landscapes, and a haunting soundtrack, The Landvættir stays with you long after the credits roll: 

"My goal was to transport audiences into a rich and immersive world deeply rooted in Norse mythology," explains Liam, "where a courageous Norse hero named Eva emerges as the beacon of hope amidst a tumultuous battle between Saxon forces and ruthless mercenaries." 

"Through Eva's journey, we seek to explore themes of freedom, environmental oversight, and the journey of what can unfold in the human spirit." 

Featuring a dedicated cast of LARPers from a New Zealand Norse group, the film brings authenticity and passion to the portrayal of its historical characters. Photo: Liam van den berk (Burger Patty)

Sisters, crew, and cast 

Two women, sisters Eva and Ida, are gathering wood in the forest when they hear soldiers approach. Attacked, they resist but are soon taken captive and across the water to an unknown destination. 

"I was attracted to the Vikings series," says Liam, "and the award-winning movie The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio, two motion pictures that really inspired me to give them my own spin." 

"This brought forth my first attempt at a short film with a very talented crew and dedicated cast, mostly LARPers from a New Zealand Norse group." 

"I would like people to understand that this film was crafted by my friends and crew, not just myself. I couldn't have done it without them by my side." 

Despite the battle scenes and drone shots over the sea, Liam admits, "The biggest challenge was finding a way to feed 70 people throughout the shoot. With help from the Norse reenactment group, we were fed traditional food on set and had more than enough." 

"I spent around a week casting and found two actors who fitted the roles perfectly. One of the major factors was their height to help with camera work. There was a lot of heavy lifting." 

Kiki Rockwell plays the lead character, Eva, and South African Zanle Louw plays her sister, Ida. 

"I glimpse the future where we breathe freely," intones Eva halfway through the film, after they are bound and imprisoned, suffering the fate of so many millions of women taken against their will back then. 

"Slavery was a touchy subject, which makes it interesting," says Liam. "I could pull strings from all sides with this subject matter and hold the tension. It makes the drama." 

As Liam outlines on the movie database IMDb, "The film's narrative revolves around Eva's quest for salvation, not only for herself but for her sister Ida."

"As a female lead, Eva challenges traditional gender norms, defying expectations and showcasing the strength, resilience, and resourcefulness that women possess." 

Addressing the sensitive topic of slavery, the film aims to spark conversation and reflection on historical injustices while also highlighting the strength and resilience of women. Photo: Liam van den berk (Burger Patty)

Moving the story forward 

The dynamic is not only between men and women, however, or captors and captives: 

"The environment plays a pivotal role in The Landvættir, serving as a living, breathing character in its own right. We want to convey the profound connection between humans and nature, highlighting the existing symbiotic relationship." 

Contrasting, as Liam puts it, "the serenity of nature with the chaos of battle," his film enters the realm where "the forces of nature and the human spirit collide." 

The film ends as it begins, emphasizing the cyclical nature of life and changing colors and seasons. It also leaves the viewer wanting more:

"If there is ever a longer version, it would reach much further into the storytelling realm. This was a great test run to see what I could do with my own production and direction with limited resources." 

"We had no funding – it was entirely my doing, along with a few favors from local rental stores, such as Metro Film and Tadpole."

We get to provide readers with original coverage thanks to our loyal supporters. Do you enjoy our work? You can become a PATRON here or via our Patreon page. You'll get access to exclusive content and early access.

Do you have a tip that you would like to share with The Viking Herald?
Feel free to reach out to discuss potential stories that may be in the public interest. You can reach us via email at hello@thevikingherald.com with the understanding that the information you provide might be used in our reporting and stories.