Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writer/s: Nicolas Winding Refn, Roy Jacobsen (written by), Matthew Read
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Maarten Stevenson, and more.
Requested Review from Ben Sauder!
This was surely going to be an interesting Requested Review for me. My buddy Ben requested “Valhalla Rising” for me quite some time ago and I am happy to finally get around to it. Aside from a brief look on IMDB, I know absolutely nothing about the film. Actually, I did not even look at a trailer and jumped right on in. From the start, I knew this was going to be quite the trip.
“Forced for some time to be a fighting slave, a pagan warrior escapes his captors with a boy and joins a group of Crusaders on their quest to the Holy land.”
“Valhalla Rising” took a bit of processing for me. This film was very much a surface watch yet also a deeper watch at the same time. What I mean by this is that from the surface, there is a lot of conflict in regards to what is seen versus what is “reality”. There is not much of a story to be following. There are a lot of cuts that do not seem to make sense (and maybe that is the point.) The title on its own is an interesting concept to try to analyze as despite the Norse history this film seems to sort of follow, any culture could have been plugged in and this film still could have continued as presented. Yet on top of it all, the violence and mania is still something to enjoy from the surface.
Now, on the deeper side of the analysis, it seems one could dig deeper and deeper into this film and pull multiple symbols and metaphors for the happenings within “Valhalla Rising”. While I still have not pulled all my thoughts together nor conducted enough research into the film, One-Eye (Mads Mikkelsen) seems to be the beacon between reality and… hell? Whether he truly is as powerful as presented in the film or if there are supernatural happenings making him the fighter and knowledgeable man he is, the reality is that One-Eye is a freak of nature and symbolizes something higher.
Stepping away from the complexity to something that is rock solid. My focus drifts to the style and imagery “Valhalla Rising” presents. This film is beautiful. Largely shot in Scotland, the rolling hills and winding rivers are a breath-taking sight. There are a plethora of stills that I would want framed on a wall. For the cinematography alone, this film is worth a watch, if that is something you fancy.
The characters in this film are not entirely gripping. Mads sits in a league of his own, as he usually does, as One-Eye. This is without speaking even one word as well. A powerhouse savage.
Next to Mads is basically everyone else sitting on the same level. The child actor in this film is Maarten Stevenson who plays “the boy”. He feels seemingly unnecessary besides being One-Eye’s “voice”. I feel as if he may have a deeper meaning attached to his character but he simply felt like a miss for me. The crusader group that One-Eye and the boy travel with all are basically there as well. Some of moments of conflict with One-Eye that are memorable but no one was much of a standout.
Ultimately, “Valhalla Rising” is a challenging film but not exactly to my liking. I feel as if the film did not provide enough content to qualify a “Oh well if you take this moment, it can be translated to this”. I can recognize some moments and happenings as acting as the statement I just said but it was not exactly compelling. While I still enjoyed my time viewing this film, especially for the scenery and gorgeous imagery displayed by the way it was shot, I can not exactly sing about “Valhalla Rising”. If anything, the action is absolutely brutal and well done. If that is your cup of tea, this would easily be well worth the watch as well. I can imagine that if anything, this film deserves multiple watches because once is definitely not enough to catch everything that happens. Especially the early references that mean more by the end.
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