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Valhalla Rising

Valhalla Rising: A Silent Warrior

  • Mads Mikkelsen, Gary Lewis, Jamie Sives, Callum Mitchell
  • Action & AdventureDrama
  • Out now
  • Shane Stanley
reviewed by
Haisam Abu-Samra
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Valhalla Rising: A Silent Warrior

In film
school, they teach students that every scene in a film has to serve a purpose.
A scene has to push the story further by presenting new conflicts, revealing
new information, or reversing a situation. This is the filmmaking-by-numbers
formula that most mainstream films tend to fallow. Valhalla Rising, however, is the antidote to such a formulaic

Valhalla Rising can be described as meditative,
but in this case meditative would be a euphemism for slow and painstakingly
boring. It’s a European art-house film made by a scholar of the dogma school of
filmmaking; so the contemplative and challenging nature should come as no
surprise. However, halfway through watching, your mind might trail off and
question if the film has anything to say at all; and if so, is it enough to
sustain 90 minutes?

The lack
of events in Valhalla Rising is not
just an exercise in ambiguous storytelling; the film hardly has a story. It’s
set in 1000 AD somewhere in Europe during a time where Christian Vikings were
mobilising to Jerusalem.
A mute Norse worrier (Mikkelsen) is enslaved by a group of elders, who put him
in fights against other criminals for their amusement. The worrier has no name,
so they call him One-eye due to his disfigured right eye. One-eye never speaks a
word; but his face projects so much fury that you start to believe that he
really might have descended from hell.    

breaks free from the chains and slays all his captors except for one young boy,
who follows him around from that point on. He stumbles upon a group of
Christian Vikings and joins their ranks just as they are about to board a ship
to the holy land. The trip seems to go off course, and after weeks in the midst
of the misty sea, they end up in a strange place. They seem to have accidently
discovered the new world, but they think that One-eye has dragged them back to
the hell that he came from.

As it is always the case with films of this calibre, the cinematography
is truly breathtaking. Shot in the Scottish highlands, the vivid green landscapes
covered by hazy clouds make for a tranquil backdrop contrasting with the film’s
gruesome and gritty events. Valhalla Rising toys with some existential themes,
but the painful subtlety makes for a very challenging experience; one that
mimics the unfortunate fate of the Crusaders depicted.

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360 Tip

Mikkelsen played the bond villain Le Chiffre in 2006’s Casino Royale, and like the warrior in this film, his character also had a disfigured eye.

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