Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Valhalla Rising (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2009)

I decided to watch Valhalla Rising because it was on Netflix, and the length of time fit the wife's many web-based responsibilities (what is it like to have friends?). I was not sure what to expect...

This was not the best Mikkelsen vehicle we watched, but it was enjoyable. It is brutal and exciting, while remaining smart and creepy. Mikkelsen plays a slave-warrior, who frees himself after years of captivity. He escapes with a young boy who was with the captors. Eventually he meets up with some Danish Christians who are headed to the Crusades. They allow the pair to go with them, despite some initial fears of this man, of whom at least on of the Christians has heard. Pushing off in their boat, they are quickly stranded in a mist. The sea is calm and without wind to sail by. Eventually, they find themselves in North America, and everything goes to hell. Figuratively, or perhaps literally.

Early on the film smacks of a classic Conan story. Man ("One Eye", Mikkelsen) forced to work as a slave and eventually as a gladiator (of sorts). Finally his skill becomes so great that he can no longer be held. It is more of a spiritual journey than a warrior's journey. There is a fair amount of battle, and it gets seriously grizzly. When the supernatural aspect starts to kick in it wavers between trippy and plot driven. The Christian vikings start infighting between bouts of blaming One Eye and his boy companion for their troubles. They are divided between their desire to escape the New World and their desire to conquer it. One Eye seems to know what is going on, but never speaks. The boy who follows him can only guess what his motives are, but trusts him more than their companions.

This is beautiful film that makes great use of the scenery,which the IMDb lists as Scotland, though the scenes in the New World look remarkably like the mountains of the Eastern United States and Canada. The visual effects are used sparingly, and to strong effect. There is very little dialogue, and with a few changes this could have been a silent film. If you can take the more grizzly scenes, and do not need definitive conclusions to stories, this is a great one to watch. The ending does leave some questions unanswered, so be warned of that.

2 comments:

Kal said...

I hated this one so much when it was over but I can't forget about it. I just waited for something to happen and it just never did. Just a bunch of guys who went nuts after a long sea voyage then the ending which was interesting...finally.

It's a weird little film that I couldn't turn off for some reason.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I get that. Aside from the violence and visuals it did not leave a huge impression on me.

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