Viking (2022) poster

Viking (2022)


Canada. 2022.


Director – Stephane Lafleur, Screenplay – Erik K. Boulianne & Stephane LaFleur, Producers – Luc Dery & Kim McGraw, Photography – Sara Mishara, Music – Organ Mood (Mathieu Charbonneau & Christophe Lamarche-Ledoux), Visual Effects – Alchemie 24 (Supervisor – Simon Beaupre), Special Effects Supervisor – Les Productions de l’Intrigue (Supervisor – Louis Pednault), Production Design – Andre-Line Beauparlant. Production Company – Micro_Scope.


Steve Laplante (David/John Shepard), Larissa Corriveau (Steven/Marie-Josee), Denis Houle (Liz/Raymond), Faviola N. Aladin (Janet Adams/Brigitte), Hamza Haq (Gary), Marie Brassard (Christian Comte), Martin-David Peters (Jean-Marc), Marie-Laurence Moreau (Isabelle), Christopher Heyerdahl (Roy Walker), Eric Davis (Real John Shepard)


David, a middle-aged PE teacher, is selected by the Canada Space Agency as part of a secret program. He and four others are taken to a habitat in the desert. They have each been chosen as a match for the psychological profile of the astronauts on the manned Mars landing mission. Their purpose in being there is to roleplay being the astronauts and enact problems experienced on the mission and seek solutions that will then be forwarded to the real astronauts. However, the interactions between the group and the roles they are playing start to blur. David institutes a regime change to take command from the captain Janet but soon starts to find that he is sympathising too much with the role of the commander John that he is playing.

Viking was the fifth feature film for Quebecois (French Canadian) director Stephane LaFleur. LeFleur had previously made Continental: A Film Without Guns (2007), Familiar Grounds (2011) about a man that claims to come from the future and You’re Sleeping Nicole (2014), all of which are comedies, along with documentary The National Parks Project (2011).

Viking is initially confusing. The title leads you to expect a film about people in long ships and historically inaccurate horned helmets. Not to mention there were a spate of other Viking works in 2022 with the likes of Robert Eggers’ The Northman (2022), the werewolf film Viking Wolf (2021) and the Canadian-shot tv series Vikings: Valhalla (2022- ), a spinoff from the popular series Vikings (2013-20). What you don’t expect is a film that uses Viking in the sense of the Mars lander mission, the probe that was the first man-made object to land on Mars in 1976.

Viking is made in complete deadpan – a very dry form of comedy that we don’t see much anymore. The humour is so oblique that it takes some time to fully understand the scenario. It is sort of explained to us at the outset but doesn’t register. While you are sitting watching the various characters introduce themselves, we puzzle as Dennis Houle introduces himself as Liz. Next there is a group meeting scene where Dennis Houle is trying to reprimand Steven Laplante for using two sugar cubes in his coffee where your mind is bending as the characters keep slipping between the actors and the roles they are playing.

Astronauts meet cowboys in Viking (2022)
Astronauts meet cowboys

Increasingly, as we watch the characters perform their daily routines, the film piles more and more ridiculous happenings on top of the next. There is the scene where Steve Laplante has taken command and so identifies with John, the mission commander he is playing, that when John has an injury to his hand on Mars he is urging the others to cut his fingers off and then jams his hand in a door so he can feel the same pain. Or where his wife (Marie-Laurence Moreau) announces in a video call that she has cancer and he dictates an apology to her for not being there because he is on Mars, all before it is revealed that this was a set-up by the controllers to replicate the scenario where the real John’s wife has been diagnosed.

The film, in its perfect deadpan way, keeps throwing ridiculous spins on everything that occurs. There are droll touches like where one of the group has a pizza delivered to the habitat. Or of Steve Laplante encountering cowboys in the middle of the desert, even another counterpart of John and the realisation that they are merely one of several simulated missions. Or the side-splitting moment where Dennis Houle abruptly announces “I’m pregnant” and then the question of how exactly to go about replicating an actual pregnancy where the woman is being played by a man.

The idea of a psychological analogue for various problems other people are having on Mars sounds a far-fetched scenario. How, for instance, does the simulation get around the issue of Mars having only 38 percent of the gravity of Earth? Or the psychological differences in having a man playing a woman’s role and vice versa? On the other hand, as the increasing absurdity of the film starts to open up, this is clearly a scenario we are not meaning to be taking too seriously. That said, there was a previous film with a not dissimilar subject with The Tank (2017), a serious drama about a group placed in an environmental habitat in the Antarctic.

Trailer here

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