Is a movie director/writer whose specialty is look-at-me landscapes combined with a lot of the old ultra violence and a big helping of sodden philosophy an inflated artist, an egotist with financing or a 17-year-old who has just discovered Nietzsche? Valhalla Rising, a grandiose movie without a center and the pacing of a lame horse, could make a case for Nicolas Winding Refn being all three.
Something like 1,000 years ago, One Eye (Mads Mikkelson), a mute warrior of great strength and cunning, is dragged around by a scurvy lot of Norsemen to fight brutal contests. Then he escapes, is aided by a young lad, catches a Viking boat to Jerusalem but is sidetracked by a great fog. He and his few companions wind up in the New World. There, a lot of them are killed by arrows.
The movie takes 93 minutes. It feels like nine hours. There are many beautifully composed scenes of great natural beauty. As we linger on them and admire the director’s good taste, the curiosity of where the movie is headed seeps out like gravy through a strainer. The violence perks things up a bit, but to what purpose, other than pandering, I don’t know. See one flea-bitten wretch get his neck crunched and the others that follow are just echoes. I suppose some theologians might make a case for cynical religious values, but real life gives us plenty of those already.
What is the point of the movie? There doesn’t seem to be one except in the inchoate vision of Refn. What we have to admire is the performances of some fine actors, caked in dirt, wearing filthy furs and creaking leather, playing suspicious killers as they turn on each other with their broadswords. Mads Mikkelsen, an outstanding Danish actor, does what he can with no dialogue. Even so, we have no idea what motivates him, just our guesses. That’s not enough. To see what a fine actor Mikkelsen can be, watch him in Flame and Citron. Now that one is a first-class movie.
I am going straight to the point. “Valhalla Rising” is NOT a movie for everyone. If you’ve seen the trailer, forget about it. Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s film barely has any dialogue (it almost resembles a silent film) and many would even say it even lacks a linear story. This film is an abstract experience, it is a film meant to be experienced by those used to a lot of ambiguity in filmmaking and for the esoteric few. It is a savage, brain-wringing tale about Vikings, … more
** out of **** "Valhalla Rising" had the potential to be very entertaining. It comes off as sort of entertaining, but not to an extent at all. In fact, one could even call it boring. There is visionary inspiration to be found in this film, but it's far too slow-paced and self-absorbed for my liking. I just can't seem to shake the feeling that "Valhalla Rising" doesn't give a damn about what I or anyone else thinks about it, and … more
While hallucinogenic in its style, "Valhalla Rising" felt too empty to me. It is no doubt more daring and ambitious than most films of its type (Viking movies, cinematic acid trips, etc), but that doesn't make it better, now does it?
Since I retired in 1995 I have tried to hone skills in muttering to myself, writing and napping. At 75, I live in one of those places where one moves from independent living to hospice. I expect to begin … more
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