- 1996’s Pusher marked the debut film for both auteur Nicolas Winding Refn and actor Mads Mikkelsen. 2009’s Valhalla Rising is their fourth (and second archiveable) collaboration together.
- Valhalla Rising is shot in a foreboding looking Scotland, Refn using digital (still fairly early on for a digital film this gorgeous) and breaking the film up into chapters (i.e. Part I: Wrath, Part II: The Silent Warrior, Part VI: The Sacrifice).
- Mads plays One Eye- a slave forced to fight before he (and a boy) breaks free and joins a group of Christians heading for the Crusades.
- At the 8-minute mark Refn soaks his surrealism scenes in splashes of red—these will serve as an important part of the formal construction of the film.
- This is a Viking Western film in many ways—Refn employs the holster shot- but instead of a gun the character is toting an axe.
- Very ethereal and mystic. Like Malick there are not many prolonged dialogue sequences (and Mads does not have a line at all- and all told the film only has about 100-150 lines of dialogue total)- fragments of conversation are captured in passing as Refn creates a collage of establishing shots and cutaways to symbols and nature. Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God feels like a fitting companion film even before the men on the boat are attacked by arrows from the shore. The unearthly musical score adds to the atmosphere, Refn uses dissolve edits often, and the composition work is as strong as it has ever been in his career.
- Ruggedly macho, sparse dialogue, long pauses, majestic visuals- this is really well done from Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out: “It feels like a Black Sabbath song come to visual life.” https://www.timeout.com/newyork
- At the 44-minute mark, just about half way through the film, the sun comes out for the first time. This visual switch has been done in films like Soderbergh’s Traffic, Career Girls from Mike Leigh or even Little Women from Greta Gerwig. Refn loses a bit of steam at this point in the film- and it is clearly that the morose, murky section of the film is superior.
- Refn sites Jodorowsky’s El Topo as an influence
- From Walter Chaw- Film Freak Central- https://www.filmfreakcentral.net/ “Aguirre as conceptualized by Jim Jarmusch and executed by Terrence Malick”
- A Must-See film- top five of the year quality
Excellent review, I couldn’t have made the points better myself. I suppose in my own viewing last March I didn’t mind the second half of the film, perhaps because I was so taken in by Refn’s entire atmosphere he created for this film. Mads Mikkelsen here is the perfect vehicle for that experience.
Do you think there’s a chance this overtakes Drive as Refn’s best work in your opinion?
@Zane- Thank you Zane. I am not sure on Drive yet- certainly a chance.
Have you thought about doing a page for Jodorowsky’s El Topo?
@Finn- For sure- I mean the plan is to have a page for every film in the archives- and I think eventually I’ll get there. Right now I watch about 650-700 films a year and do a page for about 300. With 40-50 new films in the archives each year I’m adding maybe 250 older film pages a year which really only comes out to 2-3 films for each year. So it is a process.