Welcome to my review for the Nicolas Winding Refn independent film “Valhalla Rising,” starring Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale). This film is set of course in 1,000 AD and we follow a mute one-eyed man named One-Eye, who is quite a warrior; everyone he fights is defeated quickly. But he’s treated more like a prisoner than a warrior, and the only real relationship he has is with a boy named Are. After escaping one day, the boy and One-Eye meet Christians who are traveling to Jerusalem to fight in the Crusades. After several days of drudgery and being caught in mist, they end up in a much more different place than what they wanted, some of them believing that One-Eye took them to Hell.
Valhalla Rising was released independently this weekend and I got a chance to see it. I had first heard about it when a picture was released of One-Eye standing the same way he does in the poster, and afterward I was interested in seeing where this film went.
I want to give a little bit of a warning to those of you who are thinking this film is gonna be an action packed viking movie, it’s not. In fact, it hardly has a plot, character development, and story arc. But what makes this different from other films is that its lack of character and plot development doesn’t ruin the movie but helps it. And here’s why:
Valhalla Rising is an art film. It’s a film that incorporates brilliant cinematography and story telling at best. It’s a film about the meaning of life, and the questions that lay within it: What am I here for? When will I die? Is there a God? Why did this happen to me? That’s what captured my attention. Some people have called this film boring and pretentious, and I feel that goes back to the deceptive marketing of this film. While it has plenty of action in all the right places, it’s following people who are covered in mud and grunge and are trying to find out about what life has in store for them.
The violence itself is brutal, but would not nearly be half as brutal without the setting and mood of the film. And it definitely is a creepy film, which certain moments feeling less hopeful then others. And the films ending is quite an interesting take as well and brings the point across in the best way.
Visually staggering, boldly brutal, a true form of art, Valhalla Rising may not be as action packed or character driven as many would hope, but still manages to suck you in and take you back to a time like this. It brings out the meaning of life while making us feel the ominous nature of the film.
Valhalla Rising gets a 9/10.