"Twilight Zone, Viking Style"
VALHALLA RISING is a muddled, slow paced, psychological study of an almost super human slave warrior and the small band of self-proclaimed crusaders he joins as they embark on a journey to liberate the Holy Land, but end up instead in a strange land at the very end of their physical and emotional endurance. Rich with paradox, symbolism and Christian analogy, this is a movie that seeks to stimulate the intellect and allow its audience to formulate its own questions and provide its own answers, but there is some extreme violence.
** Twilight Zone, Viking Style **
Title: VALHALLA RISING
Quality: * * Acceptability: -2
RATING: Not Rated
RELEASE: July 16, 2010
TIME: 93 minutes
STARRING: Mads Mikkelsen, Maarten Stevenson, Gordon Brown, Andrew Flanagan, Gary Lewis, Alexander Morton, Gary McCormack, Ewan Stewart
DIRECTOR: Nicolas Winding Refn
PRODUCERS: Johnny Andersen, Henrik Danstrup, Bo Ehrhardt
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Christine Alderson, Lene Borglum, Yves Chevalier
WRITERS: Roy Jacobsen and Nicolas Winding Refn
BASED ON THE NOVEL/PLAY BY: N/A
DISTRIBUTOR: IFC Films
CONTENT: (C, B, Pa, FR, L, VVV, N, MM) Ultimately light redemptive, moral ending and worldview, but with a mix of Norse mythology and early Christian belief where some characters are Norsemen, believers in many gods, while others claim Christ as their savior; brief foul language; brief but extremely violent scenes where characters are hacked, strangled, stabbed, and disemboweled; no sex; one group shot where naked male and females are briefly shown huddled together as freed captives; no alcohol; no smoking; and, slavery and men forced to fight in combat for sport.
GENRE: Action Adventure.
INTENDED AUDIENCE: Older teenagers and adults
REVIEWER: Joseph Kalcso
By its sheer title, VALHALLA RISING promises to be a movie about an epic Viking story set in some northern land, where honor, glory, and majestic Viking ships sailed the seas to conquer the known world. Contrary to that expectation, this odd rendition is a rather peculiar vehicle for a dark, brooding, psychological study in the human condition, and reminiscent of an Ingmar Bergman film with shades of a Twilight Zone episode.
Shot entirely in Scotland, the washed out, stark photography from Morten Soborg is akin to that of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN’s opening sequence. It mercilessly exposes the audience to barren, desolate landscapes where even though the sun is at full force and the skies are powder blue, but there is absolutely no warmth or comfort in sight.
Mads Mikkelsen, who also played a mean hand of poker while bleeding from one eye in CASINO ROYALE, plays a one-eyed, almost superhuman, slave who is kept in a cage by a ruthless Norse chieftain. The one-eyed warrior is only taken out of his tiny cell to fight to the death with vicious contenders. The one-eyed warrior is also mute, and Are (Maarten Stevenson), a slave boy designated to look after him between fights, fittingly names him “One Eye.”
En route to their next location, One Eye manages to break free and kill his captors. Are follows him, and the two liberated souls start a journey that takes them smack into a motley band of self-proclaimed crusaders who are intent on sailing to the Holy Land to fight for the cause of Christ. Interestingly enough, when Are is asked by their leader where One Eye came from, the boy simply says that he came from Hell, but in yet another seeming paradox, of which there are many in this movie, it is decided One Eye is still invited to join them.
Regrettably, it all goes downhill from there. Their ship soon enters a thick, ominous fog that begins to figuratively suffocate them as they slowly descend into the verge of madness in a sea of despair and suspicion. When they finally come out from the fog, the group finds itself in a totally unfamiliar new realm, and their nightmare continues unabated in one bad chapter after another. That is, until the final scene which breaks through the unending agony of all involved with a powerfully symbolic act of redemption.
Valhalla, in Norse mythology, is the hall of the slain, where the brave Viking warriors assembled after their passage from life to glory. For the hapless, bewildered, characters in this movie neither Valhalla, nor Heaven seemed to be an easy destination to reach, and with hardly any dialogue, a snail’s pace, and an eerie, unsettling, sound track by composer Peter Kyed, this movie may never reaches any semblance of critical acclaim either. Nevertheless, it is a significant production because it avoids the standard formulas used to turn movies into box office hits, and as Ingmar Bergman did, replaces them with a deeper probe into the psyche and inner motivations of man.
Although the message is muddled and ambiguous at times, while containing some scenes almost too violent to sit through, this notable effort by director Nicolas Winding Refn is well balanced by often breathtaking, expressionist photography and a thought provoking script. Moreover, the excruciatingly slow, gut wrenching pace of the movie, no doubt presented a giant dilemma for Refn to take in pursuit of his vision over commercial considerations, and for that, he deserves great credit. For escapist, unencumbered fun, an old crowd pleaser like THE VIKINGS with Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis would be a much better choice, but, as a uniquely designed creative work “Valhalla Rising” has certainly earned a place of its own in cinematic history.
With the ending, the worldview ultimately becomes redemptive, but the movie also includes some Norse pagan mythology. The violence warrants extreme caution.
(C, B, Pa, FR, L, VVV, N, MM) Ultimately light redemptive, moral ending and worldview, but with a mix of Norse mythology and early Christian belief where some characters are Norsemen, believers in many gods, while others claim Christ as their savior; brief foul language; brief but extremely violent scenes where characters are hacked, strangled, stabbed, and disemboweled; no sex; one group shot where naked male and females are briefly shown huddled together as freed captives; no alcohol; no smoking; and, slavery and men forced to fight in combat for sport.
In VALHALLA RISING, a one-eyed, mute and almost superhuman, slave warrior breaks free from a Norse chieftain. Followed by a young boy, he escapes his chains, only to embark on an ill fated journey with a small band of self-proclaimed crusaders to liberate the Holy Land. Their journey takes an unexpected turn when the crusaders’ ship enters a thick fog and comes out in a strange land at the very limit of their physical and emotional endurance.
The message in VALHALLA RISING is muddled and ambiguous at times, but the story avoids standard formulas. Also, it ultimately offers strong Christian analogy through a powerful and illuminating act of redemption. The photography is cold and stark. The sound track is as mesmerizing as it is unsettling. The acting is excellent, but the pace is extremely slow. Also, the scenes of violence, though few and far between, are extremely graphic and not for anybody with a weak stomach. With the ending, the worldview ultimately becomes redemptive, but the movie also includes some Norse pagan mythology. The violence warrants extreme caution. Viewers probably would enjoy a more straightforward action movie better.