Outlaw: The Saga Of Gisli (1981), A Film On Viking Age Iceland

‘Outlaw: The Saga of Gisli’ is an Icelandic historical film released in October, 1981. The film is set in 10th century Iceland (specifically between 940–980) and revolves around a family blood feud in the early medieval Iceland.

Based on the actual saga of Gisli (known in Icelandic as ‘Gísla saga Súrssonar‘ – ‘The saga of Gísli Súrsson’), the 100 minute historical production is an authentic portrayal of the Icelandic medieval society at the round of the Norse settlement in Iceland. The motion picture was subsequently released in February, 1984 in Sweden where it gained positive reception.

Screenshot from the film. Image source: link

Screenshot from the film. Image source: www.icelandicfilms.info

It was written and directed by Icelandic screenwriter Ágúst Guðmundsson and has been on more than one occasion praised as one of the best theatrical portrayals of the Norse culture, being thus highly accurate for the period of time in which it was set.

In cultural regards, it clearly surpasses other productions that lack a solid historical basis on the Viking Age. There are, nevertheless, several minor deviations from the original historic source, yet the film is indispensable for those who are interested in the Norse culture and are as such willingly wanting to discover, in the most realistic manner, the Icelandic sagas.

The Icelandic language that the characters speak alongside other authentic elements (such as the grim humour), clearly reminiscent to the Viking Age, add to the charm of this production. It is also important to mention that ‘Útlaginn’ (as it is known in Icelandic — literally meaning ‘outlaw’) was selected as the Icelandic entry for the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ at the 54th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.

The soundtrack of the film was composed by Askell Másson, while Sigurður Sverrir Pálsson is credited for cinematography, Jón Hermannsson for production and William River for editing. The Icelandic production was also very good received in West Germany during the mid 1980s. Most recently, on IMDb.com the film received a score of 6.5 based on 211 ratings. The film can be watched on Internet Archive here.

Documentation sources and external links:

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