In 1000, a Norse-warrior named One-Eye and a boy travel with a band of Christian Crusaders in pursuit of a Crusade. Instead, they find themselves in an unknown and unfamiliar land.
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen
Valhalla Rising is one of the simplest movies on paper that I have seen recently. Simply enough, Mads Mikkelson is our “protagonist”, a mute Norse warrior on a journey. That’s it. The film takes place in six parts:
- Part I – Wrath
- Part II – Silent Warrior
- Part III – Men of God
- Part IV – The Holy Land
- Part V – Hell
- Part VI – The Sacrifice
Each part is about 15 minutes, and the movie is only 90 minutes long. The lead role has no lines, and IMDb tells me that there are only 120 lines of dialogue and has to be the spark for Refn’s next two films Drive and Only God Forgives, also camera driven productions [as opposed to dialogue driven]. Clearly there is much, much more to the movie than “a guy on a journey”, but it is undoubtedly a creative, artistic production that requires a lot of patience and self-generated interest to sit down and watch all 90 minutes.
Not only is the story and dialogue simple and flat, but the shooting/visual style and soundtrack are very shallow as well. There is little to no color or backing audio, only some light/dark contrast and a few deep, ominous soundtracks to reinforce the dark, violent tone. This is not meant as a negative observation, but I have to think that many people would find this film boring and unattractive. The only source of real provocation is the violence and gore, which gets pretty graphic. It seems that only a very specific demographic will be willing to give this one a try, and even if they do, will they find entertainment?
It feels like maybe this was more of a passion project for Refn. Pre-production was started before the final touches of Bronson were even done, and the IMDb “Did You Know?” snippets from this film make it seem that way as well, stating that certain aspects came to Refn in his dreams, etc. They also said that it was his favorite film of his own. Maybe that is the reason for having such a narrow, intricate scope and vision, and although I don’t think too many people [at least that I know] would enjoy the film, how can I look down upon it or Refn if it is his favorite?
1.5/4 – You can see flashes of Refn’s talent and ability, and a lot of Valhalla Rising works. When the credits roll, however, the final product has already left my mind. There simply wasn’t enough drive [zing!] or content to end up an impactful production.