– Land of Wooden Gods is a classical epos and the love story of the millennium. It has a richer material than Kubrik´s ”Spartacus”, the feudal drama of the ”Godfather”, the power struggle of ”Gladiator” and the drama of Kurosawa´s ”Seven Samurais” (Lasse Svanberg Swedish Film institute)

LOWG is the first of three feature long episodes about the thralls Holme and Ausi depicting their fight for freedom during duel between Old Wooden Gods ASA-believers and Christian mission.

Land of Wooden Gods by Swedish author Jan Fridegård (1897-1968) was, for a long time, one of the most read books in libraries and often compulsory in schools. It was considered one of the most important novels in Swedish literature and translated into dozens of languages. When I read the book, curled up in the store-room behind the grocery shop where I worked as a delivery boy, I was totally captivated by Jan Fridegård’s text, already visualising it as a film. Later I found that Fridegård had initially envisaged a film adaptation when writing the story. Others of his books have been filmed, however not this one. A few years later, I phoned Jan Fridegård and asked if I could make a film of his book. He asked how old I was. When I answered “sixteen,” he gently said “you probably need to get some experience first.” This was in 1965; only a few years later Fridegård died. I followed his advice, keeping track of when experienced directors took an option to film the book. I contacted each one of them and offered my services; however the film was never made.

During the years that followed, it was noticeable that interest grew amongst the general public, with many of us coming together for a range of Viking activities. Some built Viking boats and villages whilst experiences were shared at Viking markets and much more was learnt about the customs of the Viking era.

Many years later, the opportunity arose to acquire the option. I approached the best known Swedish film producer of the day to join with him to realise my dream. For some years we sought funding, raising enough for a script; however, as had happened so many times before, production failed due to lack of financial backing. My co-producer later signed over all rights to me and in 1999 I made a 15-minute pilot, which was shown in Bio Mauritz at the Swedish Film Institute with Fridegård’s children as honoured guests. The view of his daughter Ååse was that the film totally captured her Dad’s spirit. The film was later shown in Cannes, attracting much attention.

The success of the 1999 pilot had been built on the commitment of dedicated enthusiasts. Despite some support from the Swedish Film Institute, it was not sufficient, as the view of Swedish film financiers was that one does not make a Swedish film that costs more than 1,5 million €. Further, they assumed that Swedish audiences would not be interested in historical films, particularly those about the Viking era; today we know how wrong these assumptions were.

In the summer of 2017, when we decided to re-commence the project, it was easy to bring on board people who could help create a credible back-drop with authentic clothes, tools and weapons. Today, those who are part of our team are considered the most skilled and knowledgeable craftsmen relating to this era. It was also easy to cast the film and get suitable actors.

In the late autumn of 2017, we filmed the opening scenes of the story and edited a short pilot. Our aim was to create an experience showing how life might have been lived a thousand years ago.

It may be that our efforts will prove an inspiration for films and series which concentrate on the conquests and brutality of the era; however, the big difference is that our film shows that Jan Fridegård’s classic story is about the thralls and their struggle to be free. Today we see this struggle for survival amongst refugees worldwide, making the issue of current relevance. The fight for human rights is depicted in Land of Wooden Gods from a gripping and exciting perspective. Today, events show us that we still have a long road to travel.

My main role models are Milos Forman, Luc Besson and Quentin Tarantino, all whom have the ability to create exciting stories with interesting and credible characters. The subject matter of Land of Wooden Gods has elements of power struggles and violence, though these are not the defining characteristics of the story.

Börje Peratt

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