A Secret That Should Have Been Kept

“Reality is what you make it” is a weird slogan for a documentary-making film company. It is less odd, though, than the conclusion of “The Viking Serpent,” in which an author, Philip Gardiner, claims that this film is about an outstanding discovery that has to be hidden. According to this statement, the documentary should never have been made.

The right wording is, however, “a secret that was meant to be hidden” and accordingly, a “documentary that should be remade to be successful,” for several reasons.

During the first five minutes of the film, you literally follow Gardiner to Norway. You visit an airport and then get into a car and prepare yourself for the trip to a small town in the mountains. By the way, you are informed that you will be told about “an incredible discovery.” If you are not bored yet, you will find out in about 20 minutes what the discovery is.

Even though the documentary is based on “The Viking Serpent,” a book by Harald Boehlke, the book itself is not mentioned. The viewers can only glance at it for a couple of seconds at one moment during the film. Moreover, we are not informed who the author is and why his discovery should be trusted. Gardiner just keeps showing Boehlke’s house, his study and repeats over and over that Boehlke’s discovery is outstanding.

Informed that we will learn about “Secrets of the Celtic Church,” “Serpent Worship” and “Sacred Pentagram Geometry,” which we already know from the cover of the DVD, we keep wondering who this guy is and why we should believe that his discovery is worth our attention. At the same time, we slowly get involved into the documentary when Boehlke himself starts talking about The Golden Section and draws a Sacred Pentagram he discovered on the map of Norway. At this moment, we glance at a book with his name on it and Boehlke’s credibility is finally established. By this time, our attention has already been attracted by mysterious churches Boehlke and Gardiner visit.

Speaking about the churches, they are shown in such a detailed way that a viewer forgets that he or she is looking at a TV screen. You are shown that serpent is an important symbol, as it is depicted on multiple surfaces. Even the roof of The Serpent Church of Saint Thomas looks like a serpent’s skin. This variety of details with historical and artistic value is a huge asset to the documentary, as well as the music accompaniment. Whenever there is a large speech on the topic, the authors add mysterious chords. It suits the subject and does not allow the viewer to get bored with all the talking.

Even though it substantially enriches the viewers’ knowledge about the places of interest in some cases, the authors’ passion for details should not be consistent. For example, a boat ride to one of the places of interest and a hairy boat driver with no shirt on may be left out without hurting the content. At times, the viewers feel like they watch an advertisement of a travel agency that attempts to sell them a tour to a beautiful land. No matter how marvelous it is, the scenery should be nothing more than a background in the documentary about religious symbolism.

At a first glance, natural beauties seem to be covering the lack of information. Googling Boehlke and his work, we learn that there is much more to his book than sacred geometry and serpent symbol. For example, we learn that serpent, pentagram and number 666 are related not to the Devil, but rather to Jesus, which Gardiner mentions at the very end, but does not explain clearly why it is so. Boehlke also reveals that Celtic Church converted the Vikings, but not Catholic Church, which is not present in the documentary at all.

In other words, with its multiple landscapes and little facts, the documentary could be a 5-10 minute video advertisement for Boehlke’s book. It grasps the main ideas of his work and entices the viewers to learn more without giving away all the content. However, to become a popular documentary about a historically significant discovery, the film should be reviewed and remade.

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