Director of the gripping Danish cult trilogy Pusher and last year’s terrific Bronson, Nicolas Winding Refn here adopts an epic mud-n-blood style that feels like Carl Theodor Dreyer by way of Sam Peckinpah. Or is it more Herzog meets Malick?
Mute slave Harald escapes his Scottish masters with the help of 10 year old ARE, torturing and killing them before joining a band of dispossessed Vikings. They go to sea, determined to return to Scandinavia to fight the spread of Christianity, but for Harald the journey is also a personal one to discover his own origins. Caught in a terrible storm, the group drift for 40 days until, on the verge of death, they find themselves in a freshwater river. The land seems at once strange yet familiar.
But if that’s too cheerful for you, don’t worry, Filmofilia snaps us out of our ‘strange but familiar’ reverie:
For years (in 900 A.D), One-Eye, a mute warrior of supernatural strength (Mads Mikkelsen), has been held prisoner by the chieftain Barde. Aided by a boy, Are, he kills his captor and together they escape, beginning a journey into the heart of darkness. On their flight from bounty hunters, One-Eye and Are board a Viking vessel for Norway, but the ship is soon engulfed by an endless fog that first disintegrates as they sight an unknown land. One-Eye discovers his true self as the new land reveals its secrets and the Vikings meet a ghastly fate.
Opens in the US on July 24th. Poster and gloomy production stills after the cut.
That poster quote might me hard to make out and even harder to artribute, so I tracked it down on The Circuit at the LATimes, in a festival review by Mark Olsen:
Brutal and bracing, “Valhalla Rising” transforms into a cracked and crazy meditation on war and religion, nation building and the raw savagery that often lies just beneath society’s surface.