directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (2010)
Most likely, anyone entering Valhalla Rising expecting and wanting a Hollywood action epic will come to the same conclusion: “Boring!” (You can read lots of these interpretations on the Amazon reviews). I however, am the opposite. I turned King Arthur off in the middle of what I am sure the makers assumed was the most exciting scene and nearly fell asleep with boredom five seconds into the latest Robin Hood trailer.
Action pics just aren’t interesting to me anymore, but this, this is no action pic despite some of the most brutal fight scenes I’ve seen in some time. No, this is more akin to Aguirre The Wrath of God than Clash of the Titans and in all it’s arty pretension, I found it fascinating and wonderful.
Mads Mikkelsen stars as One Eye, an enslaved Gladiator type warrior who claims to have come from hell who has no qualms about killing men with his teeth. After escaping his captors and earning a young boy as devoted follower and translator, he meets up with a band of violent Christian crusaders bound for Jerusalem. In a fog of mist however, they wander off course from Scotland to the New World and mistake it for Hell. Hallucinating ensues and death looms in slow motion.
Shot like a gorgeous heavy metal video through the eyes of Werner Herzog, this was one of the only times I’ve been frustrated with the quality of streaming video – epic high contrast landscapes just don’t hold up to compression very well. In hindsight, I’d have gone all out and rent the Bluray.
While this is probably not a film that will please everyone I recommend it to, one has to be happy that movies like this – that defy convention, and are not afraid of their silence and allegory are still being made. With Valhalla Rising, director Nicolas Winding Refn has become one of the most interesting filmmakers to watch.
His previous works include the drug dealing Pusher trilogy but I would love to see him tackle more of the D&D type stuff (because who else really is making seriously awesome movies set in 1000 AD about soothsaying warriors?) but am intrigued by the upcoming Only God Forgives, which is described as a Bangkok-set modern western.