Friday, 8 June 2012

FILM@LXG: Valhalla Rising

Yes, yes yes - we, the entire human population have watched The Avengers and have all been suitably gobsmacked by the stunning visual effects, the wise-guy script, the incredibly entertaining rendition of the Hulk, and a storyline that actually kept us enthralled for all of it's 2+ hours of screen-time.

Threading all the story tie-ins neatly together from the previous films, which in a sense served as a prequel to The Avengers, (namely Iron Man 1 + 2, Captain America, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk), my main concern was how to incorporate Thor into the mix...

With origins and powers based almost completely around magic and mythology, Thor's character initially seemed at odds with the others who herald from a more reality-based world of science and technology.

Although The Avengers did manage to involve him satisfactorily in the script, if the true story (nay, legend) of Thor is to be adhered to, the fact remains that he is a God, and could in effect squash all those puny humans if he so desired - in fact more in keeping with the way his father Odin was portrayed in the Thor movie.   

Which is why, if you will now kindly remove yourself from the popcorn fantasy feel-good world of The Avengers, and follow me to a very different world - far, far away...

I have always felt that the subject and origins of Norse Mythology must be treated on celluloid as it was recounted in legend. In a landscape at the dawn of civilization; in a state of primal instinct; in a culture of mud and mist. Very few films have ever been made with this treatment; never really bringing to life the savagery of the Viking existence.

But Valhalla Rising changed all of that...

I would be the first to admit that my initial reaction was "WTF is this?!" The central protagonist is mute throughout the entire story. He is named One-Eye for obvious reasons, but none of the other few characters are ever mentioned by name. There are some exceptionally brutal scenes of violence; and some epically stunning visuals of harsh highland landscapes.

It seems like a complete contradiction to begin with, but director Nicolas Winding Refn has a cunning plan, solemnly unfolding his primitive world of life and death - until he rips you out of your comfort zone and plunges you into a harsh, unforgiving place where your next breath could very well be your last.

This is the story of One-Eye; in a sense it traces his personal journey from brutal beginnings to a brutal end.

There is an obvious comparison to be made here between his character and the one-eyed Odin, Lord of Valhalla. Some may even interpret Valhalla Rising as just that - the beginnings of a Legend, the origins of a mythology.

But it also could be seen as the eradication and demise of a pagan religion, wiped away by the onslaught of the then all-engulfing Christian Crusades.

Valhalla Rising is yours to interpret. It will do your head in - but in a good, thought-provoking way. If you give the film some justice and see it through to the bitter end, I'll guarantee it will leave you with plenty to think about, long after the credits have rolled...

Mr. C.

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