It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Hagbard and Signe" is a beautiful, lean, spare film, which reaches back into the legends of the past to find its strength. I think it must be reckoned the sleeper of the year; I had not heard of it previously, either under the present title or as "The Red Mantle" (its title as the Danish entry at Cannes).
Director Gabriel Axel set his story in the year 1100 and shot entirely on location in Iceland to find the virgin landscapes of the middle ages. His experiment was a splendid success: From scenes of conflict, the camera often looks up to unbroken panoramas of mountains, ice, mist and tough green vegetation.
The plot has the simplicity of legend, as if it had been retold for many years until only the most important contours remained. The film involves three brothers who come to avenge their father's death.
They fight the king's three sons with sword and spear, but the match is a standoff, and at day's end the king declares a truce. The brothers spend the night at his castle. One of them, Hagbard, falls in love with the king's daughter, Signe, and she with him.