NWR’s acid trip/Heart of Darkness is an astonishing feature of boring senselessness or an intelligent vision of norse mythology under the singular perspective of a Scandinavian artist depending on how you decide to take it in. Personally I find myself somewhere in the middle, as I enjoyed this film’s first part and then started becoming easily distracted by things around me by the time Part III started, until I finally got invested in the last chapter in the film which finally adds some sense and clarity to the picture.
Starring Mads Mikkelsen as One-eye, a former nameless warrior who is also mute, some wannabe crusaders who really don’t matter at all, and a pretty cool kid, Valhalla Rising tells the story of One-eye as he escapes imprisonment with the help of this boy I mentioned previously and embarks on a dull journey to what might be hell or maybe America. From my last three words you can tell this film is left very open to interpretation, One-eye could be a simple fierce warrior, Odin, are as I like to look at him, an embodiment of norse culture. Although he does superhuman strength and the ability to communicate via vessels, so he might be Odin, no one’s really sure because this film just goes and never stops to explain anything. Power to you Refn for doing that, but as a viewer who wasn’t sitting in dark movie theater ready to be washed over by the stunning landscapes and ominous atmosphere depicted in Valhalla Rising, I was very bored. I was probably bored for the majority of this film and even though Mads Mikkelsen personifies One-eye’s savage nature with every type of aggressive look there is, since Valhalla Rising plays out like a road film in which barely anyone speaks it gets very, very uncomfortably silent at times which to translates to boredom for the majority of the film’s runtime. Honestly, I get what NWR was trying to do right off the release of the vibrantly electric Bronson. Like always, he wanted to kick the hornet’s nest and make his new audience be left in complete confusion about how the same guy who did Bronson did this weird viking tale about traveling to what might be hell. NWR’s reckless instinct brought him break the mold by making this artsy, metaphorical bloodbath that parallels Heart of Darkness but instead of putting a troubled figure in front of the story, he chooses to place a mute viking who displays total authority.
Neighboring that same oblivion Only God Forgives and B v. S roam, the only reason Valhalla Rising rises to a superior level is because of its ending and the exquisite cinematography that accompanies that final chapter. Whilst the introduction to One-eye is one of the most bad-ass entries of recent memory, after that we’re tied to a group of `Christians and left in a boat in the middle of mysterious ocean where nothing seems to happen for ages. Then some people die and some go mad I guess, and boom like that, the film’s over. Except, right in that “boom” something quite amazing happens that actually adds a layer of coherence to the film, perfecting wording and imagery that click with you and make you go “Ooh,” so that’s what is about, which I would go into except I don’t want to spoil anything. With that said, I rate Valhalla Rising at a 53 out of 100.