Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Valhalla Rising [2009]

What a fucking spectacular film!

I read the description on the Netflix envelope before I watched it – and thought – sounds like it’ll be average. Then I re-read it after I watched it – and thought that was NOT the movie I just watched – but all is forgiven – because there’s really no good way of describing the film. Not that the film is indescribable – it’s just it’s loose on the narrative story – so a synopsis of the film would essentially be me telling you everything that goes on (as the Netflix envelope does).

You have the Pagans and the Christians – ‘One Eye’ and the kid – the Holy Land and Hell. The Christians are on a quest to convert the Pagans by force. ‘One Eye’ is a brutal caged fighter for the Pagans – who escapes. The Christians take ‘One Eye’ with them to fight in their Holy War. The story is rich with metaphor – but not as much with a traditional narrative where you have the characters describing their emotions and what their reactions are to everything – it’s more intuitive than that.
‘One Eye’ (played by Mads Mikkelsen) was one of the most interesting characters I have seen in what’s basically an ‘action’ film in a long time – the fact that he doesn’t say a word – and you wonder about his motivation the entire film. What drives a character like this? Then as the metaphors unfold – you realize his character as ugly and brutal as he is – could be viewed as something more. He’s so much deeper. Why doesn’t he talk? Why does he allow himself to be dominated by living in a cage? Who is he in relation to the Pagans? Who is he in relation to the Christians?

I really liked the idea that was beginning to unfold that all the speaking adults were prone to paranoia – but it almost seemed that it was because they spoke and didn’t think themselves through which made ‘One Eye’ in comparison kind of a brutal Buddha. He’s savage – but also so peaceful – it’s a wonderful contradiction of a character!
I would describe this as an action film – but that’s more because there is an intensity/tension even when there’s no “action” going on. The violence in this film is hard, brutal and graphic. The pacing is probably not for everyone – it’s more poetic than your typical action film – if you need a fast paced action film this will probably not do. (I'm looking at a couple websites and I notice the critics seem warm to this film - but the public seems sour on it - it does feel like more of a 'critics' film - or a film for people who've seen thousands of movies and appreciate something interesting)

I love me some good cinematography – and this one was so satisfying – it was brilliant! There was one scene where ‘One Eye’ stops to drink from a puddle and rests for just a moment – where I back tracked just so I can enjoy the composition of that shot again.

It reminds me a lot of Werner Herzog’s AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD on several elements of how the plot unfolds – maybe a bit more blunt – but I found it equally intense and interesting. It was one of those movies that once it was over – I was ready to watch it again right away. After seeing Nicolas Winding Refn's direction of this and BRONSON - I'm really excited to see him direct LOGAN'S RUN and if I can locate it catch DRIVE in the theaters - this guy has some stones.

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