LOST CONQUEST, as described by Director Mike Scholtz, “often feels like a low-rent, real-life Game of Thrones, if that sort of thing appeals to you.” That is appealing, but I assure you that it doesn’t feel much like Game of Thrones and–even if it had–that wouldn’t have kept me in my seat. The most exciting part of this film is, thankfully, the meatiest part: interviews with puzzlingly genuine, thoughtful, and warm people that respectfully held differing beliefs.
Watching this film to decide who is right or wrong would be a waste of time. The film really isn’t about whether the Vikings came to Minnesota in the 1300s; it’s about what it means to hold debated beliefs. The film wonderfully explores what it means to feel as if you belong in a certain place; it explores why people would want to find historical precedence for their existence on a certain plot of land. What does it mean to believe in a history that cannot be proven? What does it mean to derive meaning from a story not because you actually believe the origins of it but because you and those who raised you have believed it for so long that you actually don’t care whether it’s true or not? If you’ll go on believing it either way, is the debate worthwhile? These conversations naturally extend far beyond the debate over the Viking invasion and manage to stir thoughts about holding many beliefs, especially as they relate to religion.
I was shocked at this film’s ability to resonate without fantastic camerawork; at times I even felt dizzied by the zoom outs and unexplained cuts to footage of “off duty” Viking reenactors eating Pop-Tarts and laughing with each other. But I kept getting sucked back in by the surprisingly poetic approach people took when explaining their beliefs.
Those who believed that the Vikings lived in Minnesota were often the first to ask: “Who actually cares if they did?” This somewhat dismissive comment should not be mistaken for apathy; rather, the interview subjects often portrayed palpable passion for the subject while showing little concern about potentially being wrong. They candidly conveyed what they believed and how they came to believe it, often while demonstrating incredible awareness of their personal biases.
This is a film you will get as much out of as you want; if you'd like to just watch people laugh as they film scenes reenacting the Viking landing, you'll be pleased. If you want to dive into a mental discussion on belief structures, there's plenty of room in the deep end.
You won’t come to LOST CONQUEST for the jarring camerawork, and you won’t stay for the location-based scene breaks; instead, you should come for the unique scenery of a largely friendly historical debate, and you should stay for the sincere, unpretentious thoughtfulness of the subjects. A film featuring Viking reenactments and small town squabbles could easily feel trite and mocking, but LOST CONQUEST balances the genuine intrigue of the interviewees with an examination of what it means to hold divisive beliefs in a most appealing manner.
LOST CONQUEST’s world premiere will occur at IFFBoston on Saturday at 5:15pm. Tickets can be found here.