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Valhalla Rising (2009)
A Violent Terrence Malick Film
Having seen Bronson, also by Winding Refn, I was a bit skeptical about what might be in store watching Valhalla Rising. What you get, as the subject of this post states, is a Terrence Malick-style nature film (which all of Malick's films are) mixed with the hyper-violence that Winding Refn seems to be known for. This may be just what you are looking for. With that said, the crowd that likes Malick may not appreciate the violence and the crowd that appreciates the violence probably won't enjoy the extensive shots of quiet nature (lots of walking).
Not unlike Malick, this movie also seems to have strong religious roots, as I took One-Eye for a Jesus figure, which makes sense given the ending (which I will not spoiler here) as each man on the journey (including the faithful sidekick - pun intended) has his faith tested. This also explains the mountain in the last sequence (at least in my mind it does).
Having now seen two moderately different Winding Refn films, I can see why fan-boys and critics rave and why some audiences may want to turn away. Myself, I am somewhere in the middle on this one.
One question though.... what is it with all the flash-forwards? I don't think I appreciate them as anything more than stylistic choices with no importance to the story. Like Winding Refn's choice of occasional "all red" scenes, he seems intent to break the audience away from the movie a number of times and I don't understand what he is trying to accomplish by doing so.
Marie Antoinette (2006)
I suppose there is something to be said about a movie that I guess intends to show you boredom (and loneliness), but... wow is it boring to watch. I think the story (much like Lost in Translation) is terribly redundant (and in the case of Marie Antoinette, episodic). There is almost no characterization here other than Marie - and I am being polite. Most of her scenes show her alone and inactive (several times in fact, to the point you want to shout at the screen, "okay I get it.") We get no sense of what Louis's problem really is other than he is a bit shy. We also get absolutely no sense of what is really happening outside the gates of Versailles; which is a valid point for what I believe is Ms. Coppola's intention. More frustrating is that almost none of the supporting characters have story lines that grow toward anything. Nothing in the story builds - except your frustration.