‘Valhalla Rising’: A Blistering and Darkly Hypnotic Viking Epic from Denmark
“Valhalla Rising” (2010) is a ferocious Danish viking epic set in the year 1096 AD and starring Mads Mikkelsen as One-Eye, a savage deaf mute who is initially enslaved by a Norwegian chieftain and his cohorts. Once emancipated from the Norwegians and the shackles that have enslaved him, One-Eye sets out across the rugged terrain with a young boy (Maarten Stevenson) on a path of newfound liberation.
Ultimately encountering and joining together with a band of Christian Crusaders, One-Eye and the boy embark on an open-sea voyage with the zealotous assemblage in search of the Holy Lands. Their travels inadvertently lead them westward toward North America, far from the fervent religious wars of the Far East, where they face dense rural territory, vicious internal strife and ultimately, the fierce denizens of these uncharted lands.
Co-written and directed by eminent Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn ("Bronson", "Drive"), “Valhalla Rising” is a visually enthralling and visceral affair, replete with sequences of brutal violence and hints of sublime spirituality. Given a major lift by Peter Schneidermann’s strikingly ominous soundtrack work, it’s a unique, transgressive and utterly captivating cinematic conception, pulling no punches in its darkly existential depiction of desperation, survival and divine transcendence.
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