Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Valhalla Rising (2009) - ActionFest Buffet: Plate #4

On the Menu: VALHALLA RISING (2009)
Ingredients: Mads Mikkelsen, Gary Lewis, Jamie Sives, Ewan Stewart, Andrew Flanagan and Maarten Stevenson. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Run time: 100 minutes. Rated: Not rated.

At First Bite: This was one of the last films I added to my ActionFest schedule. I thought Refn's BRONSON was brilliant, and looked forward to Mikkelsen playing a Viking warrior/slave described to have superhuman strength.

It's around 1000-1100 AD. One-Eye (Mikkelsen) is a mute warrior being held captive in Scotland by Vikings. They keep him chained up in a cage, and only let him out to fight other warrior-slaves (he is tied to a post for the fights though).

He figures a way out of his chains and leaves a bloody mess in his escape. A young boy slave (Stevenson) follows him in hopes to find a home. The two encounter a group of Christian Vikings, who take them aboard their boat on their way to Jerusalem.

However, the boat ride seems cursed. The Christians believe the godless warrior and boy slave have doomed their journey. The travelers end up in the New World, which is inhabited by Native Americans. The Christians believe this to be Hell.

Rightfully so.

Tough to Swallow: In the closing credits, the credit for Technical Support is misspelled "Techincal Support."

The pace is very slow for the most part, and I'm not too sure why there is a rape scene (even if it is part of a drug-induced stupor).

Sometime around when the group is wandering around the New World, for about 10-15 minutes there was a projection snafu. The framing jumped and left the very top of the frame on the bottom of the screen. I think someone in the audience left to complain, but the projectionist actually stopped the movie to fix the problem, which I don't think was necessary. However, in that moment, audio from a random action movie trailer began playing and it continued as the projectionist got VALHALLA RISING going again. So, picture One-Eye and Kare (Lewis) on the screen and hearing the audio from this 1981 masterpiece. Needless to say, it got a lot of laughs.

Something to Chew On: Theater audience = 36.

The film was shot in Scotland.

Refn was inspired by a rune-stone he saw in Delaware, the Mario Bava film PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, a comic and a 1950s sci-fi pulp novel.

The official site for the movie refers to Mikkelsen's character as Harald, but he's only known as One-Eye in the actual film.

VALHALLA RISING's U.S. release is scheduled for June 4, 2010. It's North American premiere was at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival.

The film currently has a 6.4 user rating on IMDb.com (695 votes).

Aftertaste: The movie is broken up into six chapters: Wrath, Silent Warrior, Men of God, The Holy Land, Hell and The Sacrifice.

The Scotland scenes, though beautifully shot, have the most brutal violence, and the bleakest look/feel. The three words I jotted down for the first two chapters were brutal, gray and cold. The warrior-slave battles are bloody and ultraviolent. You can hear the bones smashing during these fights, and you see one guy's brains get beaten in, literally.

One-Eye does indeed possess near-supernatural strength, yet he has a soft side. He becomes the guardian of the little boy almost instinctively. The exchanges between the two are sometimes funny. Since One-Eye is mute, the boy declares to others One-Eye speaks through him. The boy is, after all, the one who gave the warrior his name (one of the lighter scenes of the film).

There is a resounding theme of mythology versus Christianity. One-Eye is clearly a reference to, possibly the embodiment of, Odin, the chief god in Norse mythology. Odin, one-eyed himself, is associated with war, death, magic and prophecy among other things. One-Eye, aside from being a killing machine, has deadly visions of the future (shown in a hellish-red color). And, while he is definitely the most violent character in the film, the Christian vikings have slaughtered some villagers when we first meet them. They are on their way to reclaim the Holy Land through warfare in God's name after all. Also, while on the boat, the Christians assume their godless passengers are the cause for silent winds and endless mist, yet the chapter is titled Men of God. Oddly enough, the Christians end up following One-Eye as though he were Jesus (a comparison that makes even more sense with his final act).

Sometimes gloomy. Sometimes stunning. Always unsettling.

Just don't go in thinking it's a Viking action/adventure flick because you might end up hating it or falling asleep waiting for all the fights. It's really more of an artsy drama.



  1. to sum it up

    about 45 minutes of action and good plot

    45 minutes of people going crazy and aimlessly wandering around doing nothing (or raping and murdering their friends) until they are all dead.

    100% needless rape scene. Art my ass

    how was he inspired by all that crap you mentioned? the movie was based on a book entirely.

  2. What a load of crap that's all I can say about this film,rather make a coffee do yourself a favour don't bother