Isaacs Picture Conclusions

VALHALLA RISING (2009) THREE TOP HATS

I recently watched this the other day for the first time since I originally posted this in August of 2011. I still agree with what I wrote here and even after 4 and 1/2 years I still don’t get it. Since only two people have ever looked at this, I thought I’d re-post it. This was before I even started putting pictures up in here! And look how few tags I used…!

I have been struggling with how to even start a review of this movie. This movie is NOTHING like I expected after seeing the movie poster above. Looking at the tattooed gentleman there, and reading the “log line” of the thing: “After years of slavery, Viking warrior One-Eye escapes from his captors and seeks refuge on a Norse ship bound for his homeland. When a storm throws them off course, the crew lands in a mysterious realm inhabited by invisible demons”, I was expecting a “Braveheart-Apocalypto-Centurion”, One-Eye is a parallel of Odin, type of movie. NOPE.  The film is broken into six parts and is filled with all sorts of Norse / Celtic / Christian imagery that I don’t know much about, a VERY brutal first section (complete with one gag moment), and then very slow, confusing, kind of boring following sections leading up to the conclusion.  The comments I am going to write below will be filled with spoilers, so if you want to see this and not know what’s going on, don’t read any further. BUT – I never really knew quite what was going on anyway, so it may not be too spoiling. Altogether, this wasn’t a bad movie, but it wasn’t the “rising up of the Viking warrior” I was expecting. I get the feeling this is shooting to be an “epic” over in Europe.

Chapter One: HATE

One-Eye, according to the log line, is a slave to some clan who travels around the tops of the mountains of Scotland fighting other slaves and brutally killing them. I mean, the special effects are tough to watch. These people are all filthy, covered in mud and blood and tattoos and filth. It’s hard to tell who’s who, except for the guys in the cage. Eventually they let One-Eye bathe in a stream where he luckily finds an arrowhead, which he uses to escape, and kills everyone except for the blond haired kid who is in charge of feeding him. Watch out for the disgusting disembowel action. Someone (I think a clan chief) narrates that “he’ll come back for us, because he is full of hate”, even though I am not sure how he would know he’s escaped. Act one ends with One-Eye sticking someone’s head on a spear (I am not positive whose head).

Chapter Two: THE SILENT WARRIOR

One-Eye, followed by the kid (whose name is Are), walks and walks and walks and walks and walks and walks across the beautifully shot Scotland mountain tops. He walks and walks and walks and walks and looks around and looks around and looks around and looks around, with his one eye.  Eventually he comes across a camp, littered with banners bearing the image of a cross, smoldering piles of human skeletons, and a group of naked women.  We learn that this is a group of Christian Vikings purging the heathen clans of the highgrounds on their way to Jerusalem. We also learn that One-Eye doesn’t speak and no one wants to tangle with him because he is “the most vicious warrior of the “Sou’rlands”. They try to talk him in to joining their crusade to the Holy Land, but in the end, one man says “Think he’ll come back?” To which another adds “Only if God wants him to”.

Chapter Three: MEN OF GOD

I guess One-Eye decided to come on back because now they are all on a boat surrounded by fog.  They are surrounded by fog for about 30 minutes of the movie, sitting there on the boat, wondering if the boy, Are, has cursed them. Oh yeah, earlier, in Act 2, they had asked where One-Eye was from. Since he has zero dialogue in this movie, Are tells them he’s “From hell, on the other side of the ocean”.  Well, that’s where they eventually surmise they’re heading. One of them tries to kill Are – but he is swiftly dispatched to heaven, or hell. One of them drinks some of the water, and dies. Eventually they all drink the water, do they die? Are they all dead and going to hell? Is One-Eye home? Is this the river Styx? I don’t know but they finally see land.

Chapter Four: THE HOLY LAND

They float around for another good ten minutes and finally get off the boat. Are and an old fellow stay by the boat while the rest of them walk up a mountain. They do LOTS of walking and LOTS of looking around. Eventually they come across a burial ground of what appears to be American Indian head-dressed skeletons. One-Eye goes off on his own.  Back at the place they docked, everyone is wondering what they are going to do next. One-Eye comes back with a sword and sticks it in the ground, then goes elsewhere to brood. “He killed him” someone says, “and he’s going to kill us alone by one.” I don’t know who they are talking about.

Chapter Five: HELL

They decide to get back on the boat for some reason that escapes me.  They paddle around for a little while and then one of them gets shot with an arrow from the hills. They panic, go back to where they started and get out again. The main Viking priest vows to “Teach these heathens what a motivated Christian can do” and “claims the land in Christ’s name to build New Jerusalem!!!” Then, they drink something out of a jug that calls them all to go on some sort of hallucinogenic trip. I have no idea what it is but they roll around in the mud, they kiss and stab the water, One-Eye builds a tower out of rocks, they hide in the ferns, and I think one of them bones another one. They wake up the next day and the guy they though One-Eye killed comes back, covered in mud and runes. He says he can read One-Eye’s mind and One-Eye says they are going to die. So, one of them decides they have to go back through the fog, and makes like he is going to kill Are. One-Eye quickly kills three of the remaining men and takes off with Are up the mountain and through the forest. One man decides he’s going with them but the main priest stabs his lifelong friend for turning his back on Christ. The just stabbed Viking trudges his way up the hill after One-Eye and Are, holding his guts in. After they disappear, the main priest is pierced through with a bunch of arrows.

Chapter Six: THE SACRIFICE

The stabbed guy dies at the top of the mountain, but One-Eye and Are trudge on. They do a lot more walking and eventually come to a coast. Like I have said, the cast does a lot of looking around in this movie. What I mean by this: the camera is rotating around them, and they turn their heads with it, staring off into the thousand yard distance. There is a cool part here where One-eye is surveying the water before him, and, as we rotate, we see that behind them are now about twenty mud covered aborigines or American Indians, holding clubs and bows. One-Eye seems to realize his fate, drops his weapons, heads into the group and is clubbed to death. The natives then leave the scene, leaving poor Are alone and staring out into the water.

There you go – a very good looking, briefly brutal, often boring, very slow, tale of something that I don’t get. Is One-Eye Odin? Is this a tale of the Christianity and heathenism? I better go look at all of the insane posts on the IMDB message board to figure it out. Or not

29 comments

  1. Pingback: DRIVE (2011) FIVE TOP HATS | Isaacs Picture Conclusions

    • theipc

      It’s been a while since I’ve seen it but I don’t remember totally loving it. Did you get the sense that it was a take on Odin in Norse mythology?

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      • Mmm, it may have some relation to Odin when it comes to war, tyranny and such. Nicolas Winding Refnis a Danish so perhaps.

        I saw him as the devil, bringing the white man to the new world. It was so simple, yet so complex.

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  2. imakedots

    They all drank fresh water. The laughing guy even said so after he took a sip, unless it wasn’t and they are all dead like you suggested, but I think that might be a stretch.
    I loved the movie and wasn’t bored at all, but I really enjoy atmospheric weirdness like this. For example I was particularly fond of Von Trier’s Melancholia and Antichrist. I know you aren’t particularly fond of either, so I could see how this wouldn’t be your bag.

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