After all the activity (all the gratifying activity), this composer has been in power-down mode. Watched Terry Jones’s Erik the Viking last night. I had not seen this since going to the cinema to see it the year it opened (with a friend named Eric, whose hair is red, but who was a bassoonist, not a Viking); and I really enjoyed it then. The mixed critical reaction seemed to me to miss the point. My not seeing it since was never a comment on the movie . . . just never had occasion.
As to the Director's Son’s Cut angle (which is delightful, and cosmically appropriate, as Jones wrote the source-stories for his then five-year-old boy) . . . I don’t remember the original running 100 minutes (i.e., it didn’t seem particularly too long, I didn’t watch the clock, &c.) Reading that the recent cut runs a lean 77 minutes, I thought, “23 minutes shaved off?” But it’s 20 years since I saw it last, so if I was missing anything, I didn’t miss what I missed.
The inevitable pleasures of revisiting this 20-year-old movie now, are all the participants I didn’t know at the time, now familiar from other environments: Imogen Stubbs, Charles McKeown, Jim Broadbent (can hardly tell him in his metal hair, he’s one of a brace of rapists whom the title character kills early on), Tim Robbins himself . . . and Neil Innes, whose name is misspelt in the opening credits for the music. (His name is spelt right in the end credits, as a Hy-Brasilian . . . so chances are, there’s grist to some conspiracy theorist’s mill somewhere in here.)
Jones himself plays Arnulf, King of Hy-Brasil, who leads his people in a comically poor musical performance. (Adjustment of this musical component seems to have been one enhancement in the DVD, I read — for again, with a 20-year gap, I recuse myself from comparison-duty.) It’s awful, the Vikings cannot possibly like it, one angle of the comedy in the scene is Erik’s pains in wishing to be a good guest, and yet when pressed to be honest, no, he didn’t like it.
King Arnulf weeps on his daughter’s shoulder at this artistic crisis, and Erik diplomatically offers that he & his companions come from a land of the sword and the axe, where there is no music.
With both expert comedic sense, and its fair escort, awareness of balance & proportion, Jones leaves this rich situation be, with its several wild aesthetic potentialities charging the air.
And so shall I.