I watched Valhalla Rising (link contains spoilers) tonight on Netflix. Barely had a choice – Netflix kept throwing it in my face like some annoying friend who just knows that you’re going to like something they liked and won’t leave you alone until you like it too. But I did like it, so I forgive Netflix for being so pushy. Okay! Netflix… you were right. So, until my next major post (no you can’t have a preview or even know the subject) is finished, here’s a mini-post review of Valhalla Rising:
[Wait, go see it first. You'll appreciate reading about it that much more once you've seen it. We'll be able to communicate with each other about it instead of this being just a one way conduit of information.]
I kept thinking Space Odyssey with this one, primarily due to the slow, epic scenery, the little dialog sprinkled occasionally into hypnotically slow scenes, and the use of symbolism . I’ll be blunt: this is no Space Odyssey, but, like many people report when watching that movie, I didn’t really have a clue what was going on in this one on the surface. I got the overarching ideas (I think), but from scene to scene, especially in the opening, I was at a loss to do much other than stare at the screen and continue watching. But the scenery was something to stare at! – gorgeous mountains and other unspoiled nature scenes make this movie pleasant to look at (albeit the beauty is balanced out by plenty of ugly dudes and violent, bloody gore aplenty). This would have been something to see on the big screen. The lighting effects and the strategic use of red in certain scenes were particularly striking. And the soundtrack was spot on. [I intend to do a whole post on how a soundtrack can make or break a movie, but that one is some time away...] At certain times, the music was sublime, at others, it thrashed appropriately. The end of Part I (I like how the movies is divided into parts – it gives the movie a structure and keeps things tight) features a held chord that strikes just the right mood – even though that mood is hard to articulate. This is, by the way, the function of music, for those of you who have never bothered to think about it. So much can be delivered straight to the emotion processing centers via music that would be nearly impossible to articulate verbally (much akin to the “a picture is worth a thousand words” cliche; the right chord can transmit a lifetime’s worth of memories and feelings).
I found this movie visually and aurally captivating. Now, this film touches on Viking mythology, Christian religion, barbarous slaughterfest, the Crusades, etc etc i.e. a bunch of stuff I don’t mind studying for historical understanding, but which I generally don’t care for in my fiction entertainment. I mention this to underline the fact that this is a movie about events I just plain don’t care about, yet it captivated me; a stunning success on the part of the film makers, I’d say.
Some random thoughts on Valhalla Rising:
- Valhalla Rising is a little like Braveheart through a 2001 A Space Odyssey lens, although I must admit, compared to these two great films, Valhalla Rising falls quite short of the mark. I generally like the look and sound of this movie, but the overall feel is a little too dark and eternally mysterious for me to warmly embrace it as a favorite. But I’m still working out everything the movie has to offer. Perhaps after time it’ll grow on me.
- Spoiler Alert Spoiler Alert: Not being a Christian myself, the idea of an Odin-like character (well he did have one eye and he did kick the ass of everyone he came across) giving his life in Christlike fashion didn’t particularly move me in any spiritual way – but I’m not convinced it was supposed to. Nevertheless, it was an interesting, thought provoking cognitive juxtaposition.
Okay, that’s it for now. Stay tuned as I attempt to Do the Right Thing ;)