Sunday, 8 June 2014

What Was The Point Of The Movie 'Valhalla Rising'?

I have just wasted 88 minutes and am writing this posting to warn you so that you might avoid doing the same. Having recently seen violent action movies set in historic times: 'Centurion' (2010) about the destruction of the IX Legion in Scotland; 'The Eagle' (2011) about the attempt to recover the IX Legion's standard twenty years later and 'Apocalypto' (2006) about a tribesman escaping from capture by the Mayan Empire in 1527 just as the Spanish are landing, I bought a second hand copy of 'Valhalla Rising' (2009) which is set in the 11th century in parts of Scotland where the Norwegians were to maintain holdings until the 15th century.  The lead character is called One-Eye and is played by Mads Mikkelsen one of the best known Scandinavian actors in Britain.  The box of the movie warns that it is violent.  It begins with One-Eye as a gladiator for a Scottish lord to win money.  He is persuaded to sell One-Eye to a neighbouring lord and during the transfer One-Eye escapes along with a boy who was charged with feeding and securing him between fights.  They fall in with a group of crusaders who seem to have just killed some male unbelievers and stripped the women.  They are heading to Middle East to fight in the crusade.  They persuade One-Eye to go along.  Out at sea they are becalmed for many days in a thick fog.  When it clears they are miraculously in North America.  One-by-one they are all killed by natives firing very accurate arrows and only seen at the end of the movie, others kill each other until only the boy remains.

The three movies I mentioned are not top quality, but they have characters, they have dialogue, they have jeopardy, decent photography and they have narrative.  Aside from the photography which even then is often limited to rainy glens, 'Valhalla Rising' is lacking in all of these. There is very little story and very little dialogue. Frequently all the actors simply stand in poses like a tableau with no purpose to it simply to waste more time. There is actually not a great deal of violence it is bunched up at the beginning and end and scenes are often repeated as One-Eye keeps getting premonitions of what is going to happen including his own killing.  These premonitions add to the very psychedelic feel of the movie.  At one stage for no reason they crusaders and One-Eye and the boy all drink from a bottle and then seem to go on a hallucinogenic trip, wading in mud, piling up stones and basically zoning out, again adding nothing to the story.  It might be metaphysical.  Certainly you might think that One-Eye represents the god Odin from Norse myths as he had one eye pecked out to gain enlightenment.  However, the bulk of the movie involves men wandering around craggy areas in dull weather in Scotland and largely sunny weather in America.  They achieve nothing except to die in different ways.  There is no epic battle or indeed any real sacrifice or redemption.  They walk around, they die.  That is it.  This movie looks like a student project or one of those psychedelic shorts from the early 1970s.

Given how many good movie projects never get made and even those that are often do not get distributed, it seems criminal that such a poor piece of work should have been green-lighted, made and distributed.  Mikkelsen and the other actors should be embarrassed to have appeared in this movie.  I am angry that it was made and will take more care with what I buy even second hand, in the future.  Do not bother watching this movie; there is probably no point even if you are high on drugs, what you are imagining is likely to be far more engaging.  I will certainly stay far away from anything written or directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and why he needed Roy Jacobsen to help him, let alone Matthew Read for supposed 'additional writing' to quote Imdb, I have no idea.  There is so little narrative and dialogue in it, I imagine they did it all during their lunch breaks.  A real crime that this movie ever got further than a discussion in a pub.

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