Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

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Review: Valhalla Rising (’09)

While not literally dark, this film is the definition of dark. It is bleak, dismal, lonely, and scary. It is the complete opposite of happy and comforting. The scenery could be beautiful, if not for being seen with such an atrocious group of men. This film is directed by Nicolas Winding Refn who brought us the Pusher film series (’96, ’04, ‘05) and the more recent Drive (’11, with Ryan Gosling). I haven’t seen any of his other films. Mads Mikkelsen is the main character. To me, he was most notable as the villain in Casino Royale, but he’s been around in quite a few others. I’m interested in this film because I appreciate the slow pace. Puts you in a different mood, maybe not a happy mood, but certainly provides an encompassing cinematic experience.

One Eye in the with the Christian crusaders traveling through the mist.

One Eye in the with the Christian crusaders traveling through the mist.

Don’t get me wrong. This is good film. But not in the sense like Avatar-good where it’s not exciting or brilliant. There are no cries of happiness. No cries at all even because these are Vikings and crusaders in the year 1000. They don’t have luxuries or comforts. This is a reminder of brutality that which humanity endured. The blood is squirting, knives are stabbing, and fists are thrown. Everyone is filthy and muddy. There is mist in about quarter of the film leaving a mysterious aura around the viewer, and a sense of hopelessness and confusion for the crusaders.

One Eye and his Nord masters.

One Eye and his Nord masters.

The film follows One Eye, a fighting slave to Nords. He has been a slave all his life but the moment he is able, he takes advantages and kills his masters. He escapes and joins a band of Christian crusaders. While One Eye is mute the entire film, the boy he travels with speaks for him. The boy is peculiar in that he is from the cruel masters that enslaved him. He doesn’t speak to One Eye but he sees him as a protector. One Eye can visualize certain events and is certainly the strongest and toughest around. The crusaders continue on, unsure of this warrior, but determined in their mission to reach the holy land of Jerusalem. I’m not sure the exact geography of where they are going but they encounter natives who are not welcoming to the Christian crusaders. This film brings together Vikings, Nords, and Christians.

The boy against the overcast land.

The boy against the overcast land.

One Eye is the center of the film. It’s up for interpretation his motives but he certainly takes orders from no man, has been a slave all his life, and will fight for his life. His only care is for this boy, a child from the group of men who held him slave. I think of him as a man who rises from the ground, who has no education, but is able to understand power. He protects the only thing he has in life, himself and the boy.

There are only 120 lines in this film. It is slow, but intense. I like slow movies so that’s why I decided to write it up, along with the availability On Demand. The dismal mood is so strong. Simply put, this is a film to be appreciated for the marvelous cinematics. The characters are deep, the story is strong.

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