Denmark/Great Britain/Norway/France
91 minutes

Somewhere between Terrence Malick and Werner Herzog, Danish maverick Nicolas Winding Refn melds both directors' quest for transcendence in this bloody, brutal reinvention of medieval adventure movies as a largely dialogue-free, deliriously stylized sucker punch of a film. Mr. Refn's confrontational sensory overload and take-no-prisoners approach, well known to those who have followed his career since his landmark 1996 debut Pusher, are pushed to the max in the story of mute, unbeatable warrior One-Eye (a brooding, physical Mads Mikkelsen). Living for years as a bare-knuckle brawler in servitude to a Caledonian clan, he eventually escapes and agrees to join a motley band of Christian crusaders heading for the Holy Land.
      That's about as comprehensible as the story gets, and that's OK because what matters to mr. Refn is the blank canvas it allows him to go all out on his immersive sensory approach, constructing a bewildering head trip of Herzogian proportions into a heart of darkness that also suggests a heavy-handed metaphor for the sticky end of all attempts at conquest in the name of a cause or a faith. There is, granted, a somewhat demiurgic quality at work here, not least because the “saviour” aspects of the tale are played up throughout, and it's certainly a hugely pretentious, madly overreaching film. But that's part and parcel of mr. Refn's visceral, love-it-or-leave-it work, of which Valhalla Rising is a very good example.

Starring Mads Mikkelsen; Alexander Morton, Stewart Porter, Maarten Stevenson, Matthew Zajac; Gordon Brown, Andrew Flanagan, Gary Lewis, Gary McCormack, James Ramsey, Jamie Sives, Ewan Stewart.
    Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn; produced by Johnny Andersen, Bo Ehrhardt, Henrik Danstrup; written by mr. Winding Refn, Roy Jacobsen, with additional material by Matthew Read; music by Peterpeter (Peter Schneidermann), Peter Kyed; director of photography (colour by Technicolor, widescreen), Morten Søborg; production designer, Laurel Wear; costume designer, Gill Horn; film editor, Mat Newman.
     A Nicolas Winding Refn presentation of a Nimbus Film Production in association with La Belle Allée Productions; produced by One Eye Production in association with Blind Eye Productions, La Belle Allée Productions and Scanbox Film; supported by the Danish Film Institute, Scottish Screen, Nordisk Film and TV Fund, Glasgow Film Office, South West Scotland Screen Commission, MEDIA Programme of the European Community; in association with Wild Bunch, Wild Side Films, Scanbox Entertainment, The Wales Creative IP Fund, DR, BBC Films, Vertigo Films Distribution. (Scandinavian distributor, Scanbox Entertainment. World sales, Wild Bunch.) 


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