I felt like writing something different today, so I decided to jot down some random words on "Valhalla Rising." I'm not going to call this a review, since I think this film is kind of impervious to reviews. If the director cared what anybody else thought, he probably would have picked a whole different career.
Honestly, I always like it when an artist goes ahead and breaks all the rules. I like it even more when that artist breaks all the rules and it makes all the critics and the entire viewing public FURIOUS. That's more or less the case with "Valhalla Rising" which, from my understanding, wasn't the world's biggest commercial success. Nicholas Winding Refn is the director's name. When I stumble across an artistic personality like him, I always fail to figure out who funds their films. That information always seems to be hidden somehow. The reality is that it's probably just the guy's multi-millionaire or billionaire daddy who lets him be a filmmaker so he can have a respectable profession to rattle off when people ask him about his son at fancy parties. But deep down I hope this guy went through things legitimately, and found some other crazy billionaires who weren't related to him and somehow convinced them to finance his professional life.
More power to the guy, we need more psycho movies like this.
If you have seen "Aguirre: The Wrath of God" you've essentially seen "Valhalla Rising," well, the second part anyway. For the first part it's as if they discovered an unfinished manuscript to a Robert E. Howard novel and once they got done filming that, they just kind of decided to tack "Aguirre: Wrath of God" on the end. To kind of brush over the awkwardness of this pairing, they stuck some chapter headings in there. I believe I read that there are only 120 lines of dialogue in this whole film...so if you add in the chapter headings, that kind of makes it 125 lines of dialogue.
Most of the time the chapter headings are unnecessary and ridiculous. I mean, the point of the film is to have you a little off-guard. I don't like when you have this after image of a chapter heading floating around in your mind and telling you exactly what to expect.
A lot (and I mean a LOT) of this film is just Mads Mikkelsen staring off into the distance. There are few actors who are interesting enough to support a 30 second extended shot of them just looking around. Remarkably, Mikkelsen manages to more or less pull it off. Oh, and he doesn't say anything for the entire film, he's mute.
You might remember Mikkelsen as Tristan in that Clive Owen "King Arthur" movie...the one that had Keira Knightly painted blue...remember that (she was Guinevere of course). Anyway, Mikkelsen was probably the only interesting thing in that entire film. I keep thinking to myself, "it'd be nice to see that guy who played Tristan in King Arthur in another film." Trouble is, he's BEEN in a bunch of other films. He was the bad guy in Casino Royale (kind of wasted there actually...but that was a good film), and he was one of the silly warrior dudes from the terrible remake of "Clash of the Titans" (they should have used the script from the 80's version...that's one of THE significant movies). He's probably been in other things too...but these roles are forgettable.
Unfortunately, his role as "One-Eye" in "Valhalla Rising" is going to be forgettable too (although he does show off some significant acting chops...only in that he's clearly more interesting to watch than anyone else in the film). Also, he kills a couple people in probably the most gruesome ways ever to have been filmed...seriously, there's a couple early scenes that are going to make you squirm. This is just before they head off to a descent down the river and hell and blah, blah, blah.
Essentially, "Valhalla Rising" is the kind of film that college professors love because it's so sparse you can write a convincing paper about how it means...just about anything you want. My wife, on the other hand, fell asleep. If that doesn't give you an idea of what this film is like...I don't know what will!