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Valhalla Rising
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Valhalla Rising More at IMDbPro »

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Interesting but poor ending

Author: acw202 from East Coast, USA
2 October 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film by Refn is a straight forward allegory with Christianity represented by the chief and Mikklesen representing Nordic paganism. There are no female characters. The costumes and landscapes remind me of Odd Nerdrum paintings. While the fight scenes are well- staged and the landscapes are starkly beautiful there's a problem. The problem is at the very end so I have to talk about it.

If you are going to set the movie up as a mythical allegory then you must be true to the attributes the characters represent and Refn doesn't do this. Or rather, he quits doing this at the very end. He's fine with the Christian dying while bellowing about universalist kingdoms but paganism isn't universal. It's specific to each race or ethnic group. Vikings in particular had a very strong sense about identity and valor. After all, Valhalla was a place for Viking warriors who died fighting. Therefore, the pagan character would not lay down his weapons and let the enemy kill him. Nowhere in the movie is he converted to Christianity. There is no indication in the movie that the killing saved the boy's life. How could it?

The only explanation is that he's gone mad. Otherwise, the logic of this allegory, the persona One-eye represents, is contradicted by his baffling acquiescence. It completely defies his nature and there is no explanation for it. Like I said, it's as if he's suddenly gone mad. But, there's no indication of this in the story. So, the ending for me was disappointing. Otherwise, a serious movie with an interesting premise.

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Definitely one I had to see more than once.

7/10
Author: Andrew Wakely
3 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are many varied interpretations of the film, the most common thread connecting them is the very obvious parallels between the character One-Eye, and Odin from Norse mythology. I, however, believe the film is about violence.

That is to say, I don't think it's a violent movie (which it is) or that it's an action movie with some violent scenes (which it has), I mean to say that the movie itself is about violence. More specifically, humanity's violent nature. The main character, called "One-Eye," is a nameless, voiceless creature of pure brutality who comes from an obviously violent past, and is being held (ostensibly) against his will for the sole purpose of committing violence, before he is able to utilize violence to escape his captors and seek violent revenge. Almost immediately afterwards, he stumbles upon a group of Christians who have clearly just committed an act of hideous violence, and invite him to go and do violence with them-- in the name of God-- in the Crusades. They all board a ship, bound for the Holy Land, which quickly becomes the scene of violence after becoming lost an impenetrable fog. Eventually, the fog lifts and they find themselves not in the arid Holy Land but in a mysterious taiga-- seemingly somewhere in the Americas, where even the natural beauty of the landscape seems to belie the aura of menace that surrounds it. Despair, desperation, and even insanity sets in and the Crusaders begin to turn on each other, all the while being stalked by unseen forces from the forest around them. Everyone in the film meets a gruesome end (save for The Boy who, being left alone, can be assumed to have died of starvation or exposure).

It is my belief that One-Eye represents the violence inherent in nature, especially human nature. He exists as a silent, nameless presence who seems to haunt the other characters as everything collapses around them. This belief is strengthened by one scene in particular (around the 1:18 mark) where one of the characters begins to question One-Eye on why he has done this; why he has dragged them into such a terrible fate, as if to imply he felt remorseful of his current predicament, brought about by his own violent nature. But, being the embodiment of said violent human nature, One-Eye says nothing, only stands in silent judgment. The man quickly ceases his questioning and wanders off into the distance, most likely to meet a violent end. And when it's time for even One-Eye himself to die, he appears to suddenly surrender all will to fight and allows himself to be killed, perhaps symbolic of his understanding without question the inevitability of death and the unending cycle of violence that was not just the reality for primitives or crusaders or vikings, but is an inescapable part of existence.

A fascinatingly slow burn, the movie is unique in that it is savagely violent while still being basically an art film, with very heavy influence on cinematography and symbolism. Dark, brutal, artful, eerie atmospheric and poetic, Don't pass up an opportunity to see this one.

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Slow, and disappointing

5/10
Author: Eoghan McCarthy from Ireland
23 January 2016

I was looking forward to seeing this for a long time, and I held off for a night when my wife was away to watch it... it starts so well, but then it just slows down, and the story goes down hill, which is unfortunate.

Mikkelsen is my favorite actor, hands down, and he's very good in it, playing the character well, but the movie is just a let down.

Seems a little more of an art project than a movie... what's with the colors and that surprise scene?! I won't explain it but if you watched the movie you'll know what I mean.

Tenth line of text.

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Not my favorite Refn.

5/10
Author: punishmentpark from Netherlands
22 June 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

By now, I've seen a few titles by up and coming (or perhaps he is already there? - wherever there may be) director N.W. Refn, and I liked quite a few of them. 'Valhalla rising' I only like partly. There is a lot of beautiful nature here, the fights are very watchable and the psychic abilities of the protagonist are woven into the story in a neat way.

On the other hand, I didn't find most of the dialogues to be impressive and or interesting and that boat trip was essentially pretty boring. I read a lot of praise for the soundtrack here and there, but I have hardly noticed it, unfortunately.

All in all, just about doable; 5 out of 10.

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Visually engaging but Refn didn't go far enough....

8/10
Author: pezman-18970 from United States
6 June 2015

A movie with great potential, but in an odd way it just didn't go far enough in it's storytelling and symbolism to have a genuine lasting effect. Some great cinematography throughout and some powerful scenes dot the landscape, many will stay with you beyond the film but as a whole I felt the film should of been an hour longer than it was, giving it the chance to delve a little deeper into the who, what, why, and when of what we saw on screen. Part surreal, but not surreal enough....part narrative, but maybe too little narrative to keep us fully interested. Mads Mikkaelson actually gives a very good performance, seeing he has no dialogue in the film. He is able to convey quite a lot of "what he's thinking" just through a look or a sneer, which in this film are even hard to come by....any hint of emotion is barely perceptible throughout. I think Refn definitely thought less is more in this film when it came to storytelling, not so much for the violence and brooding which are in full abundance. A film much more about mood and texture, it sometimes succeeds in it's dark portrayal of the human/spiritual condition, but really in the end leaves more questions than it answers....I believe it could of been a seminal film with a little more effort, investment, and contemplation.

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Refn Does Herzog.

8/10
Author: aklcraigc
30 November 2014

The cover of the DVD leads you to believe this is going to be some kind of 'Game Of Thrones' style gore-fest. Mads Mikkelsen stands against a brooding, dark background looking suitably muscular and dangerous, one imagines him disposing wave after wave of extras in imaginative ways. This is precisely what you don't get, refreshingly enough. It's hard to give any broad sense of what happens, because not a lot really happens, probably the best description I can give is that it's basically 'Aguirre, the Wrath of God', but starting in Scotland. Mads trudges across various oppressive, but beautiful, landscapes, accompanied by a brooding synthesizer soundtrack. If all this sounds negative, that's not the intention, the movie successfully projects you into its bleak landscape and Mikkelsen's presence gives the whole affair a menacing tension. Whilst the plot is not brisk, it didn't feel like it was being slow simply for slow's sake. My only criticism is that Refn does not seem to have successfully integrated his influences, all the usual suspects are in evidence (Bergman, Tarkovsky), with a huge dose of Herzog, but I assume this is of little concern to most movie viewers. Overall, if you can dispense with any preconceptions generated by the DVD art work and you enjoy some ambiguous atmosphere, then you should enjoy this movie.

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Boring,but I believe thats some art

7/10
Author: dovra666 from Croatia
24 April 2014

Nicolas Winding Refn could do better than this,I know most people call this master piece,art etc.. I watched the movie and first time I saw it,all I could say was it sucked hard. Later on,when you actually think about it,its not that bad,I mean movie trailer looks awesome,still it was like a whole dialog in movie was presented in trailer. I would call this movie interesting for patient people who have actually time to watch and listen all that silence... What to say... Its not that bad,its some relaxation from all American action movies,its kinda special.But most of people will say it sucks. Honestly,I didn't get the point of the movie,nor the ending..I guess I'm not that smart for this movie :D All in all,I recommend to watch but don't watch if you really want to see some action :/

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Mads Mikkelsen speaks without saying a word

6/10
Author: estebangonzalez10 from Ecuador
8 April 2014

"I am going to show them that a man of God has arrived."

My fourth Nicolas Winding Refn film, Valhalla Rising, was as demanding as Only God Forgives in the sense that it has very little dialogue, but I enjoyed it much more. It has a very similar structure with extremely violent scenes and a lead character who doesn't utter one single word. The more films of Refn that I watch, the more convinced I am that he has a special fascination with violence. The way he exteriorizes it in his films is very different from most other directors. For example, Quentin Tarantino, another director who likes to depict violence in his films, has a completely different style where the characters are more carefully developed and always have a lot to say. Refn on the other hand doesn't care too much about developing his characters and we don't get much background about them, all we know is that they act on violent impulses. Refn always makes heavily stylized films that look gorgeous, and the Scottish mountain landscape is no exception here. The cinematography is truly breathtaking and there is something magnetic about Mads Mikkelsen's performance. The film begins with a lot of promise, although the pacing really slows down once the vikings show up. Still I was drawn to this character more than I was with Gosling in Only God Forgives. My first Refn film was Drive, which is more mainstream than the rest of his film, and I think having followed it up with Only God Forgives affected my appreciation of that film. Now that I am more familiar with his work I might be able to enjoy it more, but I can't pull myself together for a re-watch. I was convinced his films were more about style over substance, but now I'm beginning to appreciate what he does more and if you pay close attention you can come out of these films with some substance. He lets his audience interpret his work.

The film takes place somewhere around 1000 AD and we are quickly introduced to this mute warrior who they call One Eye (Mads Mikkelsen). He is a prisoner of a Chieftain (Alexander Morton) in the highlands where he is forced to fight to the death against other men. One Eye seems to have some sort of supernatural strength and also has visions of the future. A young boy (Maarten Stevenson) attends him bringing him food and water. One of the visions One Eye has allows him to find an arrowhead under the water which he eventually uses to escape. The young boy follows him and together they run into a group of Christian Vikings, who are on their way to Jerusalem. The leader of the group (Ewan Stewart) asks him to join them and convinces him that if he does he will be able to cleanse his soul and find peace. He agrees and together with the boy they embark on a vessel, but along the way they encounter an endless mist that doesn't allow them to know which direction they are headed. When the mist clears, they find themselves in a strange land with little possibilities of survival.

The film is divided in six chapters and each one is gorgeously shot. Refn always makes stylized films that are beautiful to look at, but when the violent scenes come you want to look away. The narrative isn't always easy to follow either considering there isn't much dialogue, but a lot is open to interpretation. There are also dream sequences that Refn paints in a deep colored red. It's deep and philosophical at times, so if you are expecting a heavy action film you will be disappointed because Refn takes his time to pace this movie and doesn't always explain what he's going for. The score in Valhalla Rising is a little more subtle than in his other films where a lot of electronic music is used. It's a difficult watch, but the images will stick with you.

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brutal, original striving for life compared by blind, indoctrinated greed

9/10
Author: j-irgendwer from Germany
18 March 2014

Expected only a violence-stricken and roughly realistic panorama of the Christian and Heathen bloodshed depicting some Viking as a virtuous and steadfast warden of a culture on the brink of extinction. However it proved a deep, existentialist journey neither lacking action nor down-to-earth anguish and wanton violence. The last third of the movie becomes surrealistic and deploys many meaningful pictures dealing with human's struggle midst of here: Nowhere or the new world. The ferocious, stubborn brutality along with the gloomy atmosphere are bewitching

It's a pity the movie isn't more enjoyed and better understood.

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Atmospheric Mood Piece

10/10
Author: Russell Kreindel
14 March 2014

I loved this movie.

It's one of those that either clicks with you and you vibe with it or it doesn't do anything for you. It's certainly not for everybody. The extreme violence and overall slow pace and quiet nature of the film will put some people off.

But for me, the rich colors, the sound design, to the Terrence Malick-esque landscape shots, I just ate it all up. I was on the journey with One Eye and the boy.

You could go into great depth delving into the symbolism and allegorical nature of the movie, but for me, what stuck out was the visceral impact the movie had on me. It was stuck in my head for days after the viewing.

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