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Valhalla Rising (2009)

Scandinavia, 1,000 AD. For years, One Eye, a mute warrior of supernatural strength, has been held prisoner by the Norse chieftain Barde. Aided by Are, a boy slave, One Eye slays his captor and together he and Are escape, beginning a journey into the heart of darkness. On their flight, One Eye and Are board a Viking vessel, but the ship is soon engulfed by an endless fog that clears only as the crew sights an unknown land. As the new world reveals its secrets and the Vikings confront their terrible and bloody fate, One Eye discovers his true self.

Valhalla Rising (2009)

Teen Dorm Room Posters

I recently saw ‘Drive‘ and it puzzled me a bit. It was more effective filmmaking than I was prepared for, and at the same time had less to deliver that I require. The puzzle was why had I not encountered this filmmaker before? Well, now I have and I find much the same vocabulary, used in almost the same way but to create in my case more value.

If you have not yet seen this, I can have you imagine a blend of ‘Scorpio Rising.‘ ‘Aguirre: The Wrath of God,‘ and what I believe Malick wanted ‘The New World‘ to be. There is a bit too much heavy techno music here for my tastes. That and some of the costume choices made it clear that the target was college age kids who like to conflate coolness with reflective philosophies. And yet it was open enough for me to put my own notions in it — these probably aren’t fundamentally much different than those kids after all.

The construction is rather clever. We have a fellow, imprisoned by Norse Scotts in a simple cage. Brutally treated, deprived, and force to kill other captives for the amusement of his owners. The film as I understand it is primarily the movie he creates in his mind leading to his death by drowning himself in a pond.

That film is what we share, ordered into episodes dealing with his confronting Christianity, which he seems to know and puzzle about. We pass through the Norse equivalent of the River Styx and find ourselves in the New World where no European religions have traction. All is cleansed; we have wonderful landscapes. (But as they used Scotland for both the before and after landscapes, the vegetation and sky do not alas resemble North America.) And we have increasing madness and purity.

It could be a collection of toy ideas, but Refn — probably intuitively — left enough openness and ambiguity between the layers for me to fill it with what I think is intelligent.

What makes this different from ‘Koyaanisqatsi‘? Vacuum, what is taken away.

Posted in 2011

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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