Valhalla Rising

tn_valhallaVALHALLA RISING is a slow, quiet mood piece about back in the day when Christians had “pushed the heathens to the fringes of the earth.” Mads Mikkelsen, the bad guy from CASINO ROYALE, plays one of those heathens and he starts out the movie in those fringes, locked in a cage, then tied to a pole like a junkyard dog, forced to beat other warriors to death. Not in a cool action type of way but in an upsetting “oh shit, he just exposed that guy’s brain” type of way.

Before long he’s free and traveling toward “home,” wherever that is. He tells people he came from Hell, and he’s such a scary motherfucker they tend to take that literally. Actually, he doesn’t say a word, but a little boy accompanies him, speaks for him, and names him “One Eye.” “Well, you need a name,” he explains. “And you have one eye.”

The specific cause of the mass of scar tissue in place of his left eyeball is thankfully never shown, so he gets to remain a mysterious wanderer. He’s a fuckin brute but we side with him because we see the hypocrisy of his enemies. They’re every bit as savage as him, but hiding it in “God’s will” and a search for “the Holy Land.” He kind of reminds me of Lone Wolf and Cub the way he embraces being seen as some kind of demon, and lives up to it with his violence, yet consistently shows a stronger sense of honor in his actions than the non-demon-affiliated individuals around him.

mp_valhallaThe movie is divided into chapters, which I really liked because they’re like little interconnected short stories about this character. One about him being a slave, one about him running into some vikings, one about him on a boat with them, etc. The mood and atmosphere are as thick as anything I’ve seen in a year or two. Beautiful, naturally lit shots of these filthy warriors traveling through fog-shrouded land; long takes with sparse dialogue and a score that’s more simple, eerie tones than what you might call “music.” It gave me a strong feeling of being there, not just in that place but in that time, when you could travel for days on end and never see other people, and if you did it might be a problem.

Mikkelsen is supremely badass, communicating everything with his disfigured face, dispassionately bashing skulls or disemboweling guys. I like how he’s by far the scariest guy in the movie and also the one you identify with. One look at him and people know everything they need to be scared about. They see the tattoos and the scars, they know he’s not a Christian, that he’s been treated badly, that he’s not happy about that. Walking, silent revenge. A heathen that was not interested in living on the fringes of the earth, it’s not his type of neighborhood. Get the fuck out of his way.

The director is Nicolas Winding Refn, who did the PUSHER movies, and shot Tom Hardy out of a cannon called BRONSON straight into Hollywood. The only one I’d seen before this was BRONSON, and although that had that great performance and some nice Kubrick-inspired moments I wasn’t as in love with it as everybody else. But it was good enough to make me interested in what else he gets up to, and this is a good pay off. Now he’s got that movie DRIVE coming out this week, which I look forward to seeing, and he’s flirting with becoming a Hollywood guy. He was on a list of people they were supposedly considering for DIE HARD 5 (I doubt they had seen his movies if they were serious about that), and he’s been attached to a remake of LOGAN’S RUN for a while. I kinda hope he does something mainstream because he seems like the kind of director whose personality can’t be completely suppressed. You might chain him to a post but you might regret it. We’ll see what happens, I guess.

I’d been warned that it’s not really an action movie and required patience. I so much expected it to not be that type of movie that it ended up being closer to one than I expected. It’s definitely not the modern definition of action, and it surprises me that they played it at Actionfest. It seems like that could’ve caused problems. But it’s not like THE LIMITS OF CONTROL or something that builds up to violence and then skips over it. I don’t think it’s far off from the old westerns or samurai movies. There’s not any drawn out action sequences or motorcycle chases or nothin, but there’s tension and stare downs that occasionally erupt. It’s over quick, like most incidents that involve the drawing of swords or guns. But it’s there.

Of course, then it goes a little end-of-2001 on us. It gets a little more abstract the deeper it gets into Hell. I’m sure there’s meaning to alot of this that I didn’t really get. He starts doing weird things like balancing a bunch of stones on top of each other. There’s some homeless guy who does that along the Seattle waterfront – I wonder if he’s descended from vikings?

I think that structure works pretty good, but I admit I’m literal-minded enough that I probly would’ve liked the movie even better if it ended on a more concrete note. I guess if I have to interpret it I’d say it’s kind of like how I interpret the end of HALLOWEEN: he dies, but now he’s everywhere. More than that, the living spirit of suppressed religions has sacrificed himself to save the kid, his voice. But he’s still there, watching over the kid with his lack of depth perception. He is Valhalla and he is rising just like the apes, like Cobra, like the machines, like Taj, like Hannibal, etc. He can’t watch 3D movies, but he can watch you, so be on your best behavior.




bonus: a dumb post I wrote on an IMDb message board

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 at 1:00 pm and is filed under Fantasy/Swords, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

130 Responses to “Valhalla Rising”

  1. I’m really glad you reviewed this, Vern! I think I might have bugged you to do so and I’m sure I wasn’t alone.

    I’m glad you liked it. This is a movie I’ve recommended to a lot of friends but few have liked. I was worried that this was a bad film that just hit all the right notes for me. Even when I sold it to friends I tried to manage expectations by saying it was basically a Viking film directed by Malick.

    It’s one of those few movies that is so hypnotic and stylish that it just works perfectly for me.

  2. This one made my end-of-year list in 2010 (http://bit.ly/oMYnmz). I loved watching it. Totally can’t wait for DRIVE. I still don’t know how to pronounce “Refn” though.

  3. I started out liking this movie and pretty much despised it by the end, in that way you can only hate a movie that gives off the feeling of greatness and then drops the ball. It just reeked of pointy-headed allegory, but for what I have no idea. It was a well-made movie that was all dressed with nowhere to go, a tragic waste of a trippy atmosphere and a truly badass performance from Mikkelsen. I have no problem with an oblique ending, but good god, man, give me something to work with. It has the surface sensation of meaning without anything actually behind it. Ersatz Herzog, without the spark of serendipity.

    About that ending: If he’s supposed to be a representative of a dying pagan religion, why was he killed by heathen Indians? If he was sacrificing himself to save the boy, how did he know they wouldn’t just kill him next? It felt like it was engineered to support a master’s thesis, not actually make sense within its own internal logic.

    I hated PUSHER, too, so yeah, I’m waiting on your review of DRIVE, Vern, even though it looks amazing. If this Refn dude can pull his head out of his ass long enough to tell a whole story for a change, I’ll give him one more chance.

  4. I kind of liked that there’s no easy symbolism in the movie. I don’t think I’ve really tried to deconstruct it. I just view it as art that brings out an emotional response and find it incredibly effective.

    That’s a big reason why I compare it to Malick. Tree of Life’s “message” is pretty shallow but the experience of sitting through the movie is something special. Valhalla Rising works for me for the same reason.

  5. A buddy of said “It’s like John Boorman and Terrance Malick had a lost weekend where they took a bunch of mushrooms and made a Viking movie.” That pretty much captures it.

    My take on One-Eyes sacrifice was more of a “These guys don’t need to put up with our stupid white people shit, might as well call it a day”, then a need to save the kid. I’m a little over the whole Jesus allegory since it has been done to death Still, this movie had the balls to defy expectations and stick to its guns. I’ll always approve of such things.

  6. I understand that. And I’m not one of those people on IMDB (Vern, why do you even bother going out amongst those cretins? Is it just to keep your claws sharp now that you don’t post on AICN anymore?) who hated it because it was boring. I was okay with that. It’s a movie that asks a lot of you, and I gave it everything I had. I just don’t think it gave me enough back. Even if it’s a movie about a feeling or a tone and not narrative, it still has to build to something that feels right. And this didn’t. If it had reached some kind of ecstatic truth (to steal from Herzog) at the end, I wouldn’t have cared what it all meant. The fact that I even tried to figure it out means it failed.

  7. Still, I applaud the effort. Nice try, good hustle, etc.

  8. Yea… This movie was (and I gather careful statistics about my viewing habits) a 1-in-100 disappointment. As in… I like 99 out of 100 movies better than this.

  9. I not only remember large swaths of VALHALLA, I remember how it felt to watch it. It’s more than I can say for most movies made in the last 30 yrs. There is not a whiff of corporate/marketing/test-audience b.s. anywhere in it.

    Fuck, I think I’ll watch it again.

  10. Rudolf Klein-Rogge

    September 14th, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    I liked this a lot, and really regret not seeing it on the big screen. I imagine the impact will be much greater that on my 40″. I’ve seen and liked all of Refn’s movies. One of the best is the least talked about, FEAR X, which has a great atmosphere, a fantastic suspense sequence, and John Turturro’s second best performance (after BARTON FINK). I disliked the ending first, but read a very convincing interpretation (that differed from mine) that made a lot of sense, and completely made me re-evaluate the ending. After that, I appreciated the film even more.

    BLEEDER also has some good moments, particularly an argument about who’s the greater action star of Steven Seagal and Charles Bronson. Mads Mikkelsen’s character prefers Bronson, if I recall correctly. I guess Refn does to, as he has made a movie called BRONSON, but never one called SEAGAL.

  11. hahahaha, I love that you only have a handful of posts dating back to 2005 Vern, one of them asking who played the transvestite in belly of the beast

  12. What SirVincealot said.

  13. Refn is “da man.” His only slightly duff movie is BLEEDER.
    Big thanks for highlighting VALHALLA RISING, Vern.
    Ho-ho, some wordy idiot hated PUSHER. “Ersatz Herzog” too? Next up, “Stucco Kubrick” and “Fukakta TRAINSPOTTING.”
    I liked VALHALLA RISING a little more than AGUIRRE. It’s not “ersatz,” because it’s an improvement. It’s more of a movie than AGUIRRE, which relies a lot on its jaw-droppingly great ending. Last thing you watch stiicks in your head. VALHALLA RISING has more pace, a better lead (and I like Kinski) and a better rhythm. So I can forgive the damn CGI blood.
    Herzog is a great guy (MY BEST FIEND) and a superb documentary filmmaker (every damn one he’s made), but a great feature film director? Hmmm. Isn’t NOSFERATU ersatz Murnau?
    Next up, FEAR X, Vern. Please.
    Someone will say it’s a Lynchian pastiche, but ignore them. Enjoy a thought-provoking movie instead.

  14. Whoa man, we are all righteous dudes here. Be respectful, man, we are all honest and respectful. Especially when it comes to Valhalla Rising. I loved it but can see how people I greatly respect could not enjoy it.

  15. I’m really looking forward to DRIVE. You know that feeling where you can’t wait for the weekend to arrive so you can see a particular movie. I’m that excited about DRIVE. I haven’t been this pumped for a picture in a long, long time. I thought VALHALLA RISING was fuckin’ brilliant and it really put Refn on my movie radar as a director to watch. I’m sure he’s got a long and brilliant career ahead of him.

    Mr. Majestic – Please don’t wait for Vern’s review before you see DRIVE. I actually want to read what both of you will have to say about it at the same time. I’m pretty stoked for the conversation it will elicit on this site. I’m also gonna campaign my Facebook crowd to see it on friday so I can check the reactions as they come in.

  16. Probably should mention that this is all about the sound design. Sound on this is amazing.

  17. Actually, September 23rd looks like being the best day in ages, with DRIVE and KILLER ELITE.

  18. Hey, guys, it’s cool. It’s an interesting movie with a lot of good parts, but I’m apparently just not on this Refn guy’s wavelength. Which is a bummer because he makes movies I want to like. That’s okay, though. He is clearly an artist with something very specific in mind. He doesn’t need everyone to like his movies. Just like everyone doesn’t have to like my comments. I’d rather not be called an idiot but I definitely am wordy, guilty as charged.

    I’m not gonna change my style, though. Pussies do that.

  19. Hola gang, I had to throw in my two cents here. I definitely dug this movie, especially the last act where the camera took mushrooms while Herzog fed it film laced with ecstatic truth.

    Frankly though I think the movie is even more overt than Vern was eluding to at the end of his review about the old religion fleeing from Christianity, because the movie’s anything but subtle about who the man and the boy are. By the ending I was practically laughing, because here I’ve been, watching this big, one-eyed giant take a platinum haired kid away from Europe and it’s rampaging Christian hordes, and there’s no way I can’t ask myself: is this guy Odin and the kid Thor? I mean, Odin’s the most well known one-eyed god out there, and Thor sans hammer is all about the golden locks. So I loved the idea of Thor, left to his own devises, free to roam North America all because his Dad sacrificed himself to the continent’s current residents. I do wonder what Thor’s supposed to do now in this strange new land; any thoughts?

  20. AU_Armageddon (Formerly The Artist Formerly Known as AU_Armageddon)

    September 14th, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Man I love this film, watch it every 3 or 4 months. Majestyk, your comments and questions make me weep. Valhalla Rising is not about a story and is not making literal statements ‘beneath the meaning’. It’s an impressionistic journey of consciousness. If you feel compelled to understand it through a rational framework there are several good ones to choose from.

    A genius named Jean Gebser conceptualised the evolution of consciousness in a body of work culminating in his book “The ever-present origin”. It’s long but there’d have to be a good summary by now, but I know you won’t want to accidentally strengthen your wrists doing too much googling. Lemme find one….

    This guy wrote a pretty good one by the looks – not too long and at a skim, seems quite succinct: http://www.gaiamind.org/Gebser.html

    I read somewhere recent that you know Dungeons and Dragons but won’t play it or some such. Then in addition to offering some insight into Valhalla Rising, think of the article as a Tome of +1 Wisdom. I know you D&D guys think it’s all about stacking your points into Intelligence, but that’s why this shit glides over your head – cos D&D is stupid and wisdom is not just about Saving Throws.

  21. AU_Armageddon (Formerly The Artist Formerly Known as AU_Armageddon)

    September 14th, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    prolly fuck Natalie Portman

  22. Then truly, Odin’s was a noble sacrifice.

  23. I think the first half of the film is absolutely amazing. Perfect. Masterful.

    But once they get to the new world, it starts to detoriate and the ending is poor. The film apparently tries to imply that the hero sacrifices his life for the kid, or whatever. But it doesn’t work: Everything we have seen so far in the film makes us believe that the indians will kill the kid once we cut to closing credits. So the ending is empty, pointless, and contradicts the film before it.

    I read somewhere that originally the film was supposed to have a different ending, with Mads fighting a horseload of indians. But they run out of time while filming, and had to improvise the one the film is stuck with.

    But still, the first half of the film is just amazing.

  24. I tried to google for any information for a different ending that might have been in the script, but in vain. Might be just a rumor.

    Anyway, the film didn’t need a big battle in the end, it merely needed to give the audience a reason to assume that the indians don’t always automatically kill every white person they see. But since they do, there is every reason to expect them to continue doing so with the boy.

    Because of this, One-Eye’s sacrifice is stupid and pointless, and thus he never actually earns redemption. He just gets killed. And after that, the boy is going to get killed, even if the film tries to illogically pretend that he somehow got saved.

    The film would actually be better if they would simply show the indians cutting the boy’s head off, as that would be consistent with the story. It would be a shock, but it would also be a realistic ending. One-Eye tries to do a “sacrifice” to save the boy, but it would be in vain. It would be just another day in a ruthless world which doesn’t care about morals. A cynical point to make, perhaps, but at least consistent with the rest of the film.

    Or it would be better if One-Eye would go all Rambo on the indians and kill them all and get killed himself. With only the boy surviving, alone in a hostile world. Again, it would be consistent with the story.

    Just about any ending would be better than the one the film is stuck with.

  25. Years ago, the PUSHER trilogy taught me about the lives of some redneck Danish druggies & lowlifes. I didn’t enjoy any of it, but there are hints of good-to-very good filmatism in there. Some of it could be thanks to budgetary constraints (cinematic creativity’s best friend, per [5] Obstructions Theory), as when, iIrc, a seemingly stationary camera captures a conversation between 2 upper bodies, then focuses on a vehicle in the midground, then, all in the same documentary-esque shot, manages to bring attention to a vehicle moving in the background with a little swivel, a gentle motion that incongruously jars & downplays its own perspective of the sudden violence the vehicle brings.
    When a collision or action set piece occurs, it almost feels like the audience isn’t meant to see it, like it’s not being presented for our approval or ogling. It’s an odd interruption, and we just happen to witness it, yet we’re also nicely unaware of the presence of the camera.

    The no-frills sound editing, again presumably a consequence of a low budget (at least on the first PUSHER), gives the movies a uniquely realistic feel (like some of the outdoor longshoremen scenes of THE WIRE’s 2nd season if I’m being generous), even if that means it is sometimes as painful as watching a cheap Copenhagen version of The Jerry Springer Show that occasionally dreams it’s a mini-scale GOODFELLAS.
    There is something interesting about it all, how it conveys the minutiae of fallible criminals’ everyday lives instead of elevating them or their lifestyle, but I’m reaching to be positive here.

    Again, I can barely remember this shit, but the PUSHERs, at best, are like if a less talented Shane Meadows’s crew were trying to make a sprawling ANIMAL KINGDOM – COLLATERAL hybrid movie but not as tight or pretty and with zero wit or sympathetic characters.
    So the filmatism all suggests an insistence on letting the viewers decide what’s important (because cinematic tricks are nonexistent in the PUSHERs, and there’s no musical cues or editing that will tell you how to feel), building tension or incidentally allowing the viewers to build tension based on how involved with each character’s plight they become. Then the filmatism reluctantly goes along with what the viewers want to see, acquiescing to their mild interest in what these small time criminal dickheads are trying to do. It’s all vaguely interesting as an exercise in restraint and an occasionally compelling slice of life drama about dysfunctional Danish assholes. But mostly it’s just a no good, obnoxious, boring, dirty trilogy.

    BRONSON is about a redneckish asshole in prison. The filmatism is more fun & interesting, and it made for a brilliant trailer, but again the movie is a no good, obnoxious, boring, dirty thing.

    (Haven’t seen FEAR X or BLEEDER. Again, good titles, though, I’ll give him that.)

    Luckily, VALHALLA RISING is the total opposite of all that as Refn discontinues his old ways, with the notably welcome exceptions of restrained camera movements, Mads Mikkelsen, and Refn’s proclivity for badass hoity-toity chapter titles. (PUSHER 2 was called WITH BLOOD ON MY HANDS, 3 was called I’M THE ANGEL OF DEATH, and the sections of VH also have badass chapter titles.)

    Based on VH, I like what this guy does with a real budget, a real set/setting, and a real vision. It’s cinema for the gods. If the script for the dialogue-sparse VH was 25 pages, I hope the next script he films is 5 pages. Fuck words.

    And instead of the characters being unlikable dirtbags, the movie has actual dirty characters that would be the envy of the makeup artists who did BRAVEHEART. I’d say VH makes the best use of natural dirt & mud since Rambo in FIRST BLOOD 2 when he became one with nature in the greatest camouflage-kill ever filmed.

    I’m not going to get carried away with any hint of a 2001 comparison (or AGUIRRE comparison for that matter, idiot), because I only like VH, not love it, but one slight similarity is that I foresee I will be watching both Kubrick’s ultimate classic & VALHALLA RISING about once every 3 years or so until I reach my own Valhalla. Today I watched it simultaneously with the Yankees game while listening to the “new” live Jimi Hendrix album, Winterland, on full blast. It was awesome.

  26. Man I don’t know how that ended up so long. I just wanted to use the phrase “cinema for the gods” and suggest the new Jimi, christ.

  27. I liked the style of this one, so am looking forward to Drive, despite assurances from a friend of mine who saw an advance copy (works for a distribution company, not internet pirate) that it is not very good. However, his review was based on there not being enough car action for a film called Drive, so I’ll expect we’ll disagree once I’ve seen it.

  28. I guess I`m one of the few who were underwhelmed by Valhalla Rising, it has a great start, but totally looses it`s way in the end. It reminds me of Tarkovskys Stalker, but without any sort of point.

    I tried to figure out if I missed any profound subtext, but a movie called Valhalla Rising, with a Odin-type fella who sacrifices himself in a prober christian manner, simply doesn`t make sense to me. Also, I know for certain that the original script culminated in One-Eye fighting the indians, but they had to cut it out due to a small budget. A friend of mine (who composed the music) compared it to Cannibal Holocoust, so I might have had the wrong expectations when I finally saw it.

    Pusher 1-3 are brilliant, though, and does contain one of my favorite musical cues, when the godfather finally succumbs to stress in part 3 and shoots up heroin, and the score finally kicks in. That`s pretty sweet! Also, I`m an extra in Pusher 2. You can se my shoulder if you freezeframe the bus-scene in the end. Isn`t that awesome?

  29. @ Bad Seed – interesting take. I’ve watched it end to end about three times now, and while I’ve come to different interpretations each time of the symbolism and themes that Refn is was aiming for, your One-Eye being Odin and the child standing in for Thor is a tack that I never considered, and I likes my Norse myths.

    My one take that has stuck with me is that One-Eye is at least not only spiritually akin to the Natives in the New World…but he is one! Thus putting an interesting twist upon the Vikings “finding” the Americas; the natives of the Americas found and scouted the old world first. One-Eyes willing sacrifice at the end represents how he truly can’t go home again, that he was tainted by the “Old World”, so much so that his own people no longer recognize
    him. In this reading, the kid is then adopted by the Natives, who may raise the child by either adapting him fully into their way of life or by treating him as harshly as One-Eye was treated by his oppressors (thus completing a circle of violence/revenge/retribution when one culture meets another.

    Regardless of my various takes, one line in particular has always struck a chord (and since there isn’t much dialog, every utterance takes on significant meaning). I believe it’s the Village chieftain who keeps One-Eye who mocks the influx of Christianity and the one-god faith – “They have only one god, we have many”. That one god certainly didn’t do the emissaries any favors, but it is the one god belief that did eventsually win out, or stuck and lasted, in the end.

    Mr. Majestky, in the immortal words of a deceased choke and
    stroker – don’t change. Not that it’s vaginal, but I dig your literal minded viewpoint on films because you’re so damn good at expressing your views. While I certainly disagree with your thoughts on symbolism and allegory in films, you’re rarely pedantic about it and your views generally help me improve and better articulate my own often contradictory viewpoints, and allows me the opportunity to get a better grasp of a perspective that’s utterly alien to me.

  30. I tend to agree with those who liked the first half but felt the second half didn’t really go anywhere. If I remember the movie correctly, there’s a scene where one viking rapes another viking, and it comes out of nowhere with no explanation that it actually was a little funny rather than a foreboding scene of hell. At that point I felt like the movie had lost its way and was no longer able to spin the kind of atmosphere it was successfully working early on. Still, I enjoyed enough of the film to want to see some of Refn’s other work. And Drive looks fucking amazing.

  31. Maximillion: Have I expressed my thoughts on symbolism and allegory in films before? I’m not sure I really have a consistent point of view on the topic. I don’t consider myself overly literal in my interpretations of film, but I think in this case it was a last resort when any attempt to make sense of the movie on a more metaphorical level failed. I would also like to stress again that if I had enjoyed watching the movie more, if it hadn’t have worn out its welcome long before the credits rolled, I wouldn’t have cared what it all meant. I mean, I still don’t know what the hell THE BIG LEBOWSKI is trying to say but it’s just so much damn fun to watch that I don’t stress it. The ambiguity (some might even say ambivalence) is part of the charm. That’s not the case for me and VR. It’s no fun pondering the mysterious depths of a movie I disliked on the surface.

    I’m glad I got you thinking, though. That was very cool of you to say and I appreciate it.

  32. Mr. Majestyk,

    I have a hypothetical question for you, my friend. You say “if I had enjoyed watching the movie more, if it hadn’t have worn out its welcome long before the credits rolled, I wouldn’t have cared what it all meant.” I think we can all understand and relate to that sentiment. But, personally speaking, do you think you could love, or admire, or value as art (or whatever) a movie that you don’t enjoy the experience of watching?

    It’s a tough call for me, because on the one hand I can think of movies that are for one reason or another tough to sit through that I greatly admire (Gus Van Sant’s “death trilogy” for it’s glacial pacing and often lack of plot, ICHI THE KILLER or LASE HOUSE ON THE LEFT for their extreme unpleasentness, or depressing movies, or impenetrable movies, and so on). On the other hand, the fact that I get a lot out of these movies and have in many cases watched them repeatedly suggested that in some way I actually do enjoy the experience of watching them.

    I guess there is the kind of movie that isn’t at all enjoyable to watch, but is very interesting to reflect on or discuss with others after the fact. I’m thinking of something completely tedious yet provocative like JEANNE DIELMAN 23 QUAI DU COMMERCE 1080 BRUXELLES or something. I’ve admired movies like that, too, I guess, although I’m not sure I’d ever want to actually watch JEANNE DIELMAN again.

  33. Dan: I know what you’re talking about. IRREVERSIBLE basically ruined my world for a couple of days, but that was it set out to do and I can say that I like the movie because of the strong effect it had on me, despite it being kind of painful to watch. It’s not meant to be enjoyable, except in a masochistic sense. I was raised Catholic, so I’m down with that. VALHALLA RISING is not the same kind of deal. I didn’t enjoy watching it not because it was meant to be an unpleasant experience, but because I found it tedious and pointless. I don’t think that’s quite what Refn was going for.

  34. Majestyk: Do you feel that EL TOPO succeeded where VALHALLA RISING somewhat failed? Are there lessons Refn could have learned from Jodorowski that would have improved his film?

    That sense of dread that builds through this movie is the closest I’ve come to seeing a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life.

    There is a rare kind of story structure that I think of as “collapsing into resolution.” I think it’s as good as any way to end a film, though the script needs to be pretty deft to entirely succeed. Given how difficult it was for me to distinguish between One Eye’s “visions” and reality by the end of the film, and how tangible the time and place of the film were, I’d count this film as one of the better “collapsed endings” that I’ve seen.

  35. Hmm, an EL TOPO comparison? I’m now significantly more interested in seeing this one. Although I think I’m gonna stick with my plan of seeing DRIVE first and maybe onyl check out some of Refn’s other movies if I dig that one.

  36. EL TOPO is legitimately weird, which makes me not care that it’s really pretentious. VALHALLA RISING isn’t weird enough, so its pretension prevails.

    Guys, I don’t know if I should see DRIVE or not. I’m kind of stressing out about it for some reason. Longtime readers know I’ve been in a movie malaise for some time. I don’t want to miss the boat on what could be the best badass movie in a long time, but I’m kind of sick of being the odd man out on this dude’s movies. Have any of you who’ve seen DRIVE disliked his other ones but liked DRIVE?

  37. I have to admit to generally enjoying or respecting pretentiousness in films. Modesty and restraint can be great too, and some films can be pretentious to an insufferable degree (usually if it’s a bad film). Still, pretentiousness to me is just a sign that the filmmakers were ambitious, took their film seriously and really wanted to make something great. Maybe they didn’t succeed, but I’d take a pretentious film over a knowingly mediocre one any day.

  38. Hey, I don’t have a problem with pretentiousness if it’s in a movie I like. Pretentiousness is underrated. But you’ve got to back it up with something or it makes a bad experience insufferable.

  39. I have to side with Majestyk on this one. It sounds like I probably liked the film a little more than he did, but I felt let down by VR in the end. There is a lot I liked about the film. The visuals and tone are very powerful, and Mikkelsen’s performance is captivating especially considering he does not have a word of dialog, but it never builds to anything. I do agree with SirVincealot that there are moments & scenes in the film that are so powerful that I can remember them vividly. However, that is part of why I feel so let down by VR. Those moments never add up to a film that is as satisfying as any of them individually. I will say that I am excited to see how Refn applies his sensibilities to what seems to be a more traditional feature in DRIVE.

  40. “Modesty” and “restraint” are words that make way more sense to me when describing VALHALLA RISING than “pretentious” does. I shudder to think that movie audiences have become so literal-minded that even the modest, spartan trippiness of VALHALLA RISING would be put in the same camp as HOLY MOUNTAIN.

    Of course, that would explain why so many people seem to hate mainstream surrealism like LOST HIGHWAY.

  41. Valhalla Rising was shot all in slow motion, because Refn thought it would be interesting. So he had to speed up certain sections of the film, because it didn’t work. I would love to see the version that is just in slow motion.

  42. Jareth: “Restraint” I can almost buy (In what way did the red-tinted nightmare flashes show restraint?), but “modesty?” Come on. It took major nuts to make a movie he knew would piss off 95% of the people who saw it. (This site is a welcome anomaly where those stats are reversed.) There’s nothing modest about it. It’s a show of massive hubris to make a practically silent movie where pretty much nothing happens except some people get on and off a boat and then die. I respect that, even if I feel it was a swing and a miss.

  43. I really dug this movie, and am very happy to read Vern’s (and everyone else’s) thoughts on it.
    At first I was bummed to see Majestyk was not into it, but I think I understand where you’re coming from somewhat too. For me, I think I’ve shifted in how I look at movies quite a bit by changing how I think about movies being “pretentious”. I decided that was a more Gen-X assertion of thinking I was being more idealistic by criticizing things that don’t quite live up to what I think their ideals were, rather than enjoying when people tried to take their movie seriously and wanted it to be about big things (like Dan pointed out). Because I’ve come to think there’s more value in reaching for greatness and somewhat succeeding and somewhat failing than just intentionally making a movie that does not strive for excellence so that it’s not criticized as much for not being excellent, which Vern has taught me much about. And coming from that place, eventually judging movies that could be criticized in terms of the audience member not believing that the film succeeds at reaching the heights for which they believe it is reaching has meant less and less to me. I don’t want to simply say that making a movie that has any degree of idealism or positivity somewhere in its bowels is therefore better than any movie that’s got a statement of negation to make. I don’t want to enthrone the idea that anything that tries to stand for something is therefore uncritiquable. But I guess I’m just saying that by making it less important for me to judge whether or not a movie has achieved the goals I perceive its reaching for, I’ve enjoyed movies like this a lot more, and got a lot more out of them than I used to. And Terrence Malick rules.

  44. I kind of regret using the word “pretentious,” because that wasn’t my main problem. My main problem was that the movie only engaged me sporadically and then ended in a way that was unsatisfying but seemed to be striving for meaning. Naturally, I tried to meet the movie halfway and try to figure out what that meaning was. When I couldn’t, I labeled it pretentious, which is perhaps a kneejerk reaction. I have no clue what the movie was trying to do so I can’t say if it did it or not, so perhaps it’s not pretentious in the dictionary definition of “expressive of affected, unwarranted, or exaggerated importance, worth, or stature.” Maybe the movie just thinks it’s a little blood-and-guts adventure and I’m the pretentious one.

    Okay I’ll shut up now.

  45. Mr. M, I think you are right that the film is pretentious, just not in a negative way. It is pretentious in that it is very demanding of the viewer, and it expects you to be able to understand a great deal of symbolism with little to no explanation.

  46. Majestyk: Do you think that ASHES OF TIME has anything in common with VAHALLA RISING? I’m inclined to think that ASHES OF TIME is probably a very sincere attempt for Wong Kar-Wai to work within a genre, and that the resulting film is less a “fuck you” to genre purists than it is the result of the unique temperament and thematic preoccupations of the filmatist. I get a similar vide from VALHALLA RISING. But maybe I’m being naive.

  47. “Vide” of course meaning “vibe.”

  48. I didn’t see ASHES OF TIME so I can’t say. Is this the part where I admit that I never had any interest in Wong Kar-Wai?

  49. Man, I’m not making a good case for my tastes on this board, am I? I swear, it’s not all robot testicles at La Maison Majestyque. I watched BLACK SWAN the other day–and loved it. It’s about ballet! That’s gotta count for something.

  50. Jareth, it is my understanding there are a couple versions of ASHES OF TIME. Is there one version that you would recommend over the others? I think it is the redux versions of ASHES that is in Netflix streaming, and every time I try to watch it I fall asleep. I am not going to blame my trips to dream land entirely on ASHES, but I would consider it a contributing factor. I have heard good things about the film, so maybe it is just the version I am watching that is underwhelming me. However, I plan on rewatching it from the beginning, and giving it a fair chance so your input would be greatly appreciated.

  51. Majestyk: Did you see STAKE LAND? It’s kind of what I imagine watching VALHALLA RISING would be like if it was made by someone without Refn’s ambition and visual style. It’s not a bad film, but it would benefit from being far less literal.

    STAKE LAND is also what ZOMBIELAND would be like if it was directed by Nolan.

    Charles: the differences between the two versions of ASHES OF TIME are minimal, almost imperceptible. The “redux” version isn’t like APOCALYPSE NOW or anything, it’s just a restoration of a damaged master print. The “redux” version has inter-titles that make the plot easier to follow, and the music and image quality are significantly better. The DVD version of the original version of the film that I saw was really poorly transfered and rather ugly.

  52. ASHES OF TIME from what I recall actually has some shakycam that actually works (It may be more blurrycam, it kind of looked like it was painted).

  53. Thanks Jareth.

  54. ASHES OF TIME would make a great Doctor Who episode title.

  55. Vern, you have single handedly contributed to more of my statii on the internets than all other sources combined. My status on Google talk has been walking, silent revenge since reading this one at 7 comments.

    Stu – love the gravatar.

  56. Caoimhín: The action set pieces in ASHES OF TIME were choreographed by Sammo Hung. Hung knows a thing or two about staging action.

    Wong also used that frame removal technique he likes so much to create a kind of blurred streaky motion at a few crucial points in the film.

  57. I watched ASHES OF TIME [REDUX, I think] on VHS many moons ago, like, in the 90s, on the recommendation of Quentin Tarantino’s laudatory blurb in some interview, plus probably his smiling face on the box, and because I was so exhilarated by the possibility of another unknown [at the time] great film from the director of CHUNGKING EXPRESS (One of the first movies I ever loved with a capital ‘L’, but also with a big-ass question mark), which Tarantino’s smiling face also recommended to me from the “Foreign” shelf at the local video rental joint.

    I was underwhelmed, and that’s a shame because the concept + Sammo Hung + the cast + QT told me it was good and everything made it seem like it’d hit me right in the sweet spot. I hesitate to revisit ASHES OF TIME, but I admit this is because my teenage self (who still has better taste than 98% of the internet nerds out there) is reminding me that it was largely a waste of 100 minutes.

    Wong Kar Wai has been a source of frustration and wonder since then, but I hope his next collaboration with the great Sammo Hung (*fingers crossed this will happen!*) is better.

  58. Rudolf Klein-Rogge

    September 16th, 2011 at 3:20 am

    Both versions fo ASHES OF TIME have left me cold, sadly, as I’m usually very fond of everything Wong Kar-Wai does. But if you saw it on VHS in the 90s it was not the REDUX version, which was completed a few years back, screened at some festivals, and released on DVD and Blu-ray. Pre-redux, even the best DVD release you could track down looked like complete and utter shit. With that in mind, REDUX is worth a look as it at least gives you an opportunity to actually see some of these incredible images conjured up by Wong and Christopher Doyle.

  59. Mouth: You definitely saw one of the poor copies of ASHES OF TIME that Rudolf described. The “redux” version will be much easier on your eyes, though the plot and themes of the movie won’t be changed. The only reason the “redux” version was made was because the company that owned the master copy went bankrupt. Wong went to pick up the film and found that poor storage had almost destroyed it, so he fixed it up and re-released it. That story in itself would make a great Wong Kar-Wai film.

    I don’t know; it’s a film that deals in part with how a bunch of characters are rendered into states of solipsism by their memories, characters with badass backstories that in any other director’s film would probably make for some pretty exciting stuff (HERO comes to mind). Even some Wong Kar-Wai fans find the film a slog to get through.

    If you liked CHUNGKING EXPRESS, I’m sure you’ve seen the sort-of sequel FALLEN ANGELS. That might be my favorite.

  60. Shameless plug, but my last short film is up online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ud6HmwHRsXs&feature=channel_video_title; it’s about a guy who experiences every moment of his life at the same time. Some of you fellas might get a kick out of it.

    Oh, I liked VALHALLA RISING. I reckon that the pill would have been sweetened for a lot more people if it had ended with more of a battle, but still. A good one, looking forward to DRIVE.

  61. Aw, fuck it, boys. I’m sick of being a negative nancy. I’m seeing DRIVE tonight and I’m just going to assume it’ll be awesome. As the George Savile quote at the beginning of the John D. MacDonald novel I started reading on the can this morning says, “He that leaveth nothing to chance will do few things ill, but he will do very few things.”

  62. That’s the spirit, Mr Majestyk!

    For some reason Drive is the last film since The Hurt Locker or No Country For Old Men that has made me this excited. I’m really tempted to cut out at lunch and go see it alone since my wife and friends are not excited to go see it.

  63. But the ladies all love Baby Goose! http://fuckyeahryangosling.tumblr.com/

    I like the one where he says his girl’s nana rocks at knitting. Sensitive as balls.

  64. Cunt (Formerly AU_Armageddon (Formerly The Artist Formerly Known as AU_Armageddon))

    September 16th, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Man, what a depressing fucking thread this is. You have this absolutely fucking amazing, completely original, beautifully FUCKING visceral film, and not only do none of you bitches get it, fucking almost nobody even likes it!?!?! What the fuck?!?!?!?

    Apologies Vern but fuck me, if I can’t use “faggots” now then the FUCK is the point of the fucking word. Well, just like MJW, I didn’t call anyone a faggot… merely ’emasculated’ them. Man everyone I fuckin know loves this, a bit too much chatter about Odin cos though true, it’s not the main point, but otherwise at least everyone fuckin appreciates what it’s doin. This reminds me of high school with every fucking moron in my class bitching about having to watch Bladerunner cos it was a boring nerd movie about fucking robots.

    Fucking faggots.

    Fucking watch this film again you dumb bunch of cunt face fuckwit asswipes. It’s fucking brilliant. Fucking forget wasting your time with Drive, go see the new Conan, you punks will love it compared to the stupid old one about some snake charmer and weight lifter who barely even fucking fights.

    OOOOH I liked the bit with the cake, not the last bit though. That rape put a taint on my sexuality and made us gays look like rapists. I wanted more shaking of the cam. Mebbe it would be okay if at least the kid got raped at the end but fucking no, we didn’t get to see the kid scalped or anything. And where were ther cowboys when there were injuns everywhere for the final showdown that part was stupid..

    Fuck me. Fuck you. Fuckers.

  65. Cunt – is your first name Kurt?

  66. I’m actually surprised they get movies out there in the savagelands, where AU lives in a nomadic community with his fellow berserkers. Lord Humongous must have movie nights every other Sunday, projecting the flicks on the broad side of a bison. Must be hard to hear them over the revving of motorcycles and the lamentations of the womens, but maybe that’s why they liked this one so much—not much dialogue.

  67. DRIVE was brilliant and Refn`s best movie since Pusher 3. It even made me consider giving Valhalla Rising a second chance.

    I could write more, but the less you know about this little gem, the more you`ll enjoy it.

  68. – cunt

    Hey, easy now, I love Blade Runner. I love Tarkovsky. I love Enter The Void. I even enjoy Brown Bunny. I don`t mind long boring pretentius movies as long as the stimulate or challenge me. Valhalla Rising didn`t. It`s superficial and shallow. And if I missed any deeper meaning with it, please elaborate and I might give it a second chance.

  69. I watched half the movie before I´d have to return it. And i can honestly not tell you what the fuck the movie was about. I´m glad to find out I did not have to watch the entire movie to find out the deeper meaning. I had a gut feeling that I was a complete and utter dumbfuck….of which i´m probably am.

    But I am going to watch the movie at full length at one point because it remonds me of one other nordic badass viking movie;WHEN THE RAVEN FLIES from 1984

  70. My Cousin’s name is also Cunt. It’s the short form for Cuntrick.

  71. We should introduce him to my cousin Hancock. You can probably guess what his nickname is.

    That’s right: Hank!

  72. “I’m actually surprised they get movies out there in the savagelands, where AU lives in a nomadic community with his fellow berserkers. Lord Humongous must have movie nights every other Sunday, projecting the flicks on the broad side of a bison. Must be hard to hear them over the revving of motorcycles and the lamentations of the womens, but maybe that’s why they liked this one so much—not much dialogue.”

    This is my favorite paragraph of the year Mr. M, bravo sir.

  73. Cunt, AU_Armageddon or whatever title you prefer to be called by, I am glad that you enjoyed VR so much that even the suggestion that it is a flawed film evokes such a passionate rant. I can only speak for myself, but as I mentioned in my previous post I think there is a lot to like about VR (a captivating lead performance, strong filmatism, and powerful almost hypnotic visuals & atmosphere), but despite it’s strengths the film as a whole is not great. It is not that the film is boring or it needs more action, but that whatever subtext or underlined meaning Refn is trying to convey is either to coded or unclear to decipher and that combined with a narrative without a real pay off in the end makes for a film that does not deliver on the expectations created by the quality of it’s filmatism & acting. Maybe you could try to explain what it is I am missing instead of throwing slurs around.

  74. DRIVE is the best 80s William Friedkin or Michael Mann movie I’ve seen since the last time I watched an actual 80s Friedkin or Mann movie. Even the opening credits appear to be an homage to TO LIVE & DIE IN L.A., but I guess Refn’s musical choices are a little better than Wang Chung. Vern will enjoy comparing it to Walter Hill’s THE DRIVER.

    These are pretty much the highest compliments I can give a film as it enters the canon of Badass Cinema.

  75. Little known fact: Lord Humongous is a big John Huges fan, and he will chop your fucking nuts off if you rev your engine during a screening of SIXTEEN CANDLES.

  76. Charles, you’re asking a lot of a guy who just drank an entire sheep’s bladder of ethanol.

  77. Mr. M, good point. What was I thinking?

  78. I’m kinda surprised to see so many people arguing about this one’s metaphorical meaning. Honest Injun’ I don’t think it’s intended as a metaphor or an allegory or anything; more like an atmospheric horror film about the unknown with an unusual setting (this felt almost like a Kiyoshi Kurosawa film to me.) . It actually would kind of bums me out if it was all a metaphor for religion or some damn thing. I took it at face value and was blown away by it (but then, I’m a huge atmosphere guy, so take that as you will).

    I did think the film is at its weakest when its doing the whole hidden-killer thing at the end, but mostly because making the threat increasingly tangible slowly drains the film of its crushing existential angst. But for the record, I don’t think One-Eye is “sacrificing” himself for anything, but rather acknowledging that he won’t be able to fight his way out of this one.

    Its interesting because of course he is (probably) one of them, originally, but is unable to communicate this fact (either that, or they’re the reason he left to begin with). But I consider that more of an interesting story point than a message about anything.

    Its funny, I usually am the first one to overinterpret the hidden meaning of this sort of thing, but I was just mesmerized by this one on the surface level and found it perfectly satisfying to just believe that’s the whole point.

  79. I’m thinking about what Charles and Majestyk etc. seem to be critiquing in VALHALLA: that it seems to reach for deeper meaning, but then doesn’t succeed for them. Just out of curiosity, can you guys say something about what COULD have been there that would have changed that? Or maybe give an example of a movie that you believe succeeds at more clearly shooting for something big and delivering? Because I guess the meaning of things like the second half and the very ending of VR made sense to me, but maybe not in terms of symbolism/mythology type vocabulary. I guess I felt I could connect with the world and consciousness (or lack thereof) within the movie, so it seemed to work overall. But I’m interested in where maybe you’ve had a feeling that the reach for meaning lived up to the presentation in a movie. Like, are you comparing this movie to 2001, or is there something specific that you think could have been changed in VH to make it better?

  80. And actually I didn’t find it pretentious at all, either. Actually I thought it was thoroughly engrossing and even moves along at a fair rate. When did being slow and quiet become the same as being pretentious? Mostly I think it delivers the goods pretty consistently: badass hero, adorable child, serious violence, palpable tension, brooding dread, escalating menace, twist ending. Shit, its almost pandering.

  81. What I guess I’m getting at is the ending (by which I mean the last half hour or so) is so unsatisfying and deflating and such a chore to sit through on a literal level that the only way I could understand why anyone would choose to tell a story that way is if it was supposed to MEAN something. But since I couldn’t figure out what that something was it made it even worse than if it had just been badly thought out. Still, I dislike it for sucking more than I dislike it for any alleged pretension.

  82. You know what? I take it all back. Mr. S basically nailed it: “I thought it was thoroughly engrossing.” I did not. That’s the bottom line. This is the kind of movie that either hypnotizes you and burns every single image into your brain, or it pushes you out and makes you stop paying attention. I liked it well enough for a while, pretty much entirely because One-Eye is a badass motherfucker, but by the time it reached the 50-minute mark I was definitely in the second camp. If it had pulled off a bravura finale it could have changed my mind, but then the ending turned out to be the worst part (I think we can all agree on that, even if you liked it). But even before then, I did not find it particularly beautiful or haunting, and I did not feel a sense of mounting dread. It just didn’t have much effect on me. It’s like either a song makes you want to dance or it doesn’t. It’s a physical reaction. Everything else is secondary.

  83. That makes sense.
    I was somewhat inebriated during the last half hour, so the hallucinatory parts may have had an unfair advantage with me.

  84. Jek, I think I liked it more then Majestyk, but to answer your question I would use THERE WILL BE BLOOD as an example of a similar style of film that I found more effective.

    Mr. Subtlety, I believe Refn, is on record as saying VR is his 2001. Like 2001 it is an existential journey, but with One Eye as the monolith. I even read somewhere that Refn meant for the journey on the boat to be like they where on a space ship headed to the unknown beyond the stars. Here is a link to a pretty good interview with Refn where he discusses how One Eye is not a man a much as he is a symbol. A kind of Christ like figure that is more of an embodiment of the meaning those around him assign him then an actual person.


  85. Oh! Shit, I forgot to tell you guys, my magazine had a party last night for its new issue (50 Cent shot it, it has booty models in front of CGI backdrops, holding swords and axes and riding tiger and shit. SMOOTH #52: The Warrior Princess Edition ON NEWSSTANDS NOW!) and guess who showed up? Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa! How random is that?

    Man, I really wish I could borrow the C-H-T logo right now.

  86. I know 50 is into booty models, but I didn’t think he would be a fan of swords and axes. Maybe he is also really into D&D. Maybe him and the G-Unit get together and LARP on the weekend.

  87. I think he got the idea from video game heroines. I’m not really sure.

  88. 50 is into video games. He released a pretty great one a few years ago where you could play as him and the G-Uint and combat terrorists in the middle east. If I remember correctly you get to kill Osama in the game. It was equal parts hilarious and awesome!

  89. I’m with Mr Subtlety on Valhalla Rising. I’m so enthralled with it that the experience gets in the way of any desire I have to analyze any symbols or meaning behind it all.

    I saw Drive today and loved it. Mt Majestyk, I am unsure if it is different enough from Valhalla Rising for you to enjoy it but I think the aesthetics of this film might be more to your liking.

    Also, spoilerish talk here: for anyone else that has seen it do you think the driver might be autistic? Like, I’m not sure he’s ridiculously badass as much as he might have mild autism.

  90. I won’t engage in spoiler talk, Casey. It’s not fair to the readers here and it’s not fair to the movie itself. Nor will I read any DRIVE reviews until I see it 1-2 more times this week. I think I identified a couple of flaws in the story, but the movie seems good enough to merit another watch so I can be sure.

    I’m kind of pissed because DRIVE’s opening scenes are an exact ripoff of a story I wrote & partially storyboarded when I was 15, except I used a baseball game instead of basketball.

    Anyone here who doesn’t see DRIVE is gonna feel real stupid when its theatre run ends. If that doesn’t convince you all, might I add that the movie has a touch of Mike Myers-ish sociopathy? Totally worth $13.

  91. Totally fair, Mouth. It looks like I will be seeing this again this weekend as the wife liked my description of the actual film.

  92. This is bullshit btw:

    “Again, I can barely remember this shit, but the PUSHERs, at best, are like if a less talented Shane Meadows’s crew were trying to make a sprawling ANIMAL KINGDOM – COLLATERAL hybrid movie but not as tight or pretty and with zero wit or sympathetic characters.
    So the filmatism all suggests an insistence on letting the viewers decide what’s important (because cinematic tricks are nonexistent in the PUSHERs, and there’s no musical cues or editing that will tell you how to feel), building tension or incidentally allowing the viewers to build tension based on how involved with each character’s plight they become. Then the filmatism reluctantly goes along with what the viewers want to see, acquiescing to their mild interest in what these small time criminal dickheads are trying to do. It’s all vaguely interesting as an exercise in restraint and an occasionally compelling slice of life drama about dysfunctional Danish assholes. But mostly it’s just a no good, obnoxious, boring, dirty trilogy.”

    I’m 100% positive Mouth either never saw Pusher 2 & 3 or simply only chose to remember 1 while composing this post. By Pusher 3 you see Refn grow into his style – there’s AWESOME style and music and edits and characters. No offense but what I quoted is so wrong it’s just literally bullshit and no one should take it seriously or let it dissuade them from the Pusher trilogy.

  93. – Ronald

    I second that, the Pusher Trilogy is very stylistic. With an awesome score.

    – Casey and Mt Majestyk

    I was very dissapointed by VH, but I loved Drive. It`s not perfect, but it`s the best cinematic experience I`ve had in a cinema since Black Swan. And thus, I will hype the best film of 2011 no more.

  94. Here is the main man NWR talking about Valhallla Rising, it’s pretty interesting stuff about the journey from warrior to god to man and how he wanted to make a film set at the edge of the world.


  95. Your attention please: “Drive”? Holy. Fuck.

    My first Refn. Won’t be the last, even with the push-the-envelope moments that REALLY rattled me.

  96. Man – I was actually really disappointed in Drive. But I understand how others could dig it. And I enjoyed VR. Gotta run – but will def get into a discussion if Vern reviews it.

  97. Cunt (Formerly AU_Armageddon (Formerly The Artist Formerly Known as AU_Armageddon)):

    That’s a pretty good melt down.

    But to suddenly turn into a rabid mongoose about the possibility your passion is not shared by everyone else in the world is to enter the same mental realm as religious fundamentalists who flip out and kill people.

    …which I guess is a sort of meta-commentary on this movie?

  98. Mr. M — fair enough — if the atmosphere of this one doesn’t grab you, that’s pretty much its only trick and its gonna be completely pointless. I have a friend who just can’t stand Radiohead. She can admit that they’re interesting, challenging, unique, etc, but Thom Yorke’s voice just makes her want to punch a baby. I think this movie may be like that — you might be able to see why its good, but if it doesn’t connect at a gut level its just going to be an intolerable slog.

    Chalres– thanks for linking to that interview, its quite an interesting read. I’m glad Refn doesn’t quite maintain that the film is explicit symbolism — I mean, there are obviously themes about religious conviction embedded in the plot, but its more thematic than directly allegorical (as I read his explanation). I still think its more interesting as a simple mythic tale than as a lesson, but I don’t think the metaphors in there are so overt that they ruin it.

  99. Vern, are you gonna post a new review? it’s kind of unusual for you to go this many days without posting a new review

  100. oh and *cough* *cough* Miracle Mile *cough* *cough*

  101. After all these years I’ve finally learned why I’ve never enjoyed a John Hughes film, not even the insufferable BREAKFAST CLUB, which I saw in the theater at the exact time I was the age of the characters, ie. when I should have been most susceptible to it: I hadn’t drunk nearly enough ethanol. That’s for clearing that up, guys. Now I have closure.

    AU_Armageddon: Please don’t let my failure to employ the word “cunt” in my earlier remarks lead you to think I didn’t really like VALHALLA RISING. I think it’s one of the best films I saw last year.

  102. Griff: When Vern doesn’t post for a while it means he’s on a Mission. For Justice.


  103. The cover for this over in these parts is horrendously misleading, a whole bunch of dudes with spears and shields like they’re trying to con people into thinking they’re getting VIKING 300 or something.


  104. AU (Formerly Cunt (Formerly AU_Armageddon (Formerly the Artist Formerly Known As AU_Armageddon)))

    September 19th, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Gave it a few days break so in mondo effort I might aim for every 2nd post or so to be calm and constructive…

    In order of bitching…
    CHARLES- I already stated that at beginning really even with helpful link I put up, but in my complete amazement, Ms Subtlety is already in the ball park. It’s obviously not some stupid allegory or anything and dun get hung up on the Odin references either – Refn just likes synergy. As Refn said in the nice link above – it’s a fuckin sci-fi – it is set in a cool backdrop of the rational consciousness of christianity encroaching on norse with this magnificant primal mythical concsiousness of our lead monolith (and for the visually/mentally challenged, that was a sacrifice he made at the end). It is a journey of consciousness for our monolith, one of the best ever done.

    You see a lot of reviewers calling it ‘an acid trip’ and blah blah. This is stupid and indicative of the fact that they have never taken acid. Man, I had fun periods where I was taken 20 a month. I doubt these dudes even smoke. Mebbe they got an inkling spark though about the movie’s connection with consciousness and drew a line to something they read was linked to that word…

    BR BARAKA – Lemme try this one time to explain – I like Vern not cos his writing which is not always that great, and can be little repetitive but often very very witty. I like Vern cos his attitude is different to absolutely everyone elses in review world. He enjoys movies not just his own voice (and helps me to discover things about some movies I didn’t always notice and appreciate). I liked Vern geocities site without comments back when you cunts did not exist in my mind. It was a happy place for me to read.

    I enjoy good writing too – like Faraci’s, but he’s such a ugly soul and hates most movies. And is unfortunately petty in the stupid unaware way that often makes nerd’s losers. And TV shows – I mean did anyone else read Walking Dead on Chud vs Badass Digest – incredible to me, entire writing crew of both sites basically and every single one of them 8 or 9 ugly motherfuckers pissed on that show episode after episode. Or it’s like Game of Thrones where they all do their best to impress everyone with their ability to read…

    When I read on here bullshit like “hey Vern, I’m so glad you hate this movie too” it makes me gag. I dun usually lose the plot when it’s over movies like King of Fighters and Point Blank, or even vegetable level retarded comments I read here like Predator had no characters, but when you got such clever original pieces of art like this and not just a few but, but half the cunts here – on the site of one of the most sincere movie lovers and reviewers out there, it really fucking gives me the shits. It dun matter that not many people got it – reread Vern’s review, he didn’t get it, but he still marvels at it, puts a funny spin on it, cheers the positive elements, and leaves you wanting to watch it.

    Which brings me to JARETH CUTESTORY above,
    Thinking VH is one of the best films dun win you points when you call an even better film insufferable. John Hughes is a genius and wise in ways Refn can’t even dream about and Breakfast Club is an even better film than VH so dun fucking get me started on you fuckpipe.

    You may be ugly and all, but you are a funny fucker. For a faggot.

  105. AU, I will agree with you that VH is a stunning piece of art. However, it is a stunning piece of art that despite how well it’s made, and how much I can appreciate it’s merits it doesn’t completely work for me. I would still recommend it based on it’s merits, but I would do so with the disclaimer that it didn’t entirely work for me and that it is not going to be everybody’s cup of tea. Also, I linked to that article to illustrate how much Refn is working with symbolism, and that much of the film is a metaphor. I didn’t get the monolith reference from watching the film. I got that from seeking out interviews with Refn to try and better understand the symbolism he was working with.

  106. “…great deal of symbolism with little to no explanation”. I agree. Good movie.

  107. I really pity the people who can’t understand why VALHALLA RISING is a great movie. I pity those who go on long winded self-congratulory nonsense on their own perceived smart-arseness, and yet fail to notice a great movie seated right next to them. And i pity those who, with all their smartness and culture, and yet are so blind to such an obvious great movie like VALHALLA RISING.

    What good it is to be smart and cultured if you can’t understand why VALHALLA RISING is great? What a waste!

    And what is with this of people being so proud of only being able to be literal minded about a movie? Since when that’s something to be proud of? It reads more like an handycap then anything else.

    VALHALLA RISING is a great movie. An uncompromising movie. It asks, it demands to be taken on it’s own terms. It doesn’t kiss the ass of anybody. For that alone it should be praised. And it’s utterly unpredictable. There’s no way you gan even guess what will come afterwards, much less how it will end. And still people complain?

    I think it would be good that some of you take a humility pill and admit that this movie kicked your asses and you couldn’t keep up. And then you invent all those pretty smart justifications for why the movie is “flawed”, or because the second part is not as good, meaning, it didn’t played out as you wanted it to. This movie went over your head,s and you better admit as much.

    VALHALLA RISING is a great movie, regardless if you can enjoy it or not.

    If this post sounds agressive, is because i’m dead tired of seeingthe majority of you8 here complaining about the banality of modern cinema, adn when one movie shows up that’s the answer to our prayers, you then piss on it as well. For shame! Shame on you! Shame on you!

    Vern has it right about this movie… and then the movie is even better. A true masterpiece.

  108. Asimov being condescending and hostile? Golly, it must be Monday!

  109. Mr. Majestyk, you are a class act.

    Yeah, you were the main target of my coments above, in case you have not been aware of yet. Which you were, given your reply above.

    You make sucxh beautoiful thoughful coments about movies, and how Holywood makes dumbed down movies, and how things are so bad, bla bla bla. then cames a movie that it’s the polar opposite of those Holywood blockbusters you so berate, and what do you do? You complain that VALHALLA RISING is not conventional enough and doesn’t play to your exact expectations.

    I’m sorry, but no, i can’t be any nicer about it. You gave pretty lame reasons for why you think VALHALLA RISING is not a good movie, for why it’s disapointing, or whatever you say about it. All while so very self-satisfied with your own smartness.

    I know other posters in here, and now i know why they find you unsufferable. Basically, you are not as smart as you think you are. You are also a pretty weird fella and only the gods know how your though process works.

    People in here should be haling VALHALLA RISING form the streets, singing hossanas that it even exists. Instead, we get lame complains. Unbelievable!

    Small wonder so many of you loved JJ Abrams’ TRAVESTRY TREK and go around quoting Michael Bay!

  110. Definition of condescending: somebhody who thinks he’s so smart-ass that he complains about dumb blockbusters but when a real hardcore film buff movie is made, they complain that it’s not conventional enough, and invent half-asses judtifications for that.

    If i ever seen a condescending attitude, is those who complain about Valhalla Rising not being more predictable and normal. The irony is so thick, one would need a chainsaw tom cut through it.

    And you call yourself movie geeks/movie buffs? In the use of modern parleur, epic fail!

  111. AsimovLives – I think you’ve been spending too much time on Aint It Cool

  112. I think it’s odd that he is still bitter about STAR TREK. After all a brand new JJ Abrams movie came out a while ago, so that he could switch his schtick to SUPER 8. I guess that means he enjoyed it.

  113. If you had read further down the board, Asimov, you would notice that I took back everything I said about the movie, because all that stuff was bullshit, just me scrambling to explain the unexplainable, which is that I just didn’t enjoy the movie. I never said I wished it was more conventional. I want Refn and every filmmaker to make exactly the films they want, but I’m not gonna pretend to like a movie I didn’t just because it tried something different. I respect the attempt and hope they make more movies like this one. Maybe I’ll like the next one.

    And if we’re being honest here, As, I find you kind of insufferable too. You seem to hate most things without any sense of humility or humor, and the only time you decide to like something is when there’s the opportunity to shit on someone else for disagreeing with you. I find you to be a largely angry, joyless presence in a place where most people are just trying to have a good time and get along. I might be inconsistent and have strange, bewildering opinions, but I do my best to follow our host’s one and only rule: Don’t be a dick.

    Now that we’ve had our little brawl, can we just buy each other a beer and become fight brothers?

  114. P.S. I am flattered that you and a mysterious cabal of commenters get together to complain about me. If you can’t be popular, I always say, be notorious.

  115. Asimov: I think you should try a little dogma 95/5 obstructions type exercise where you challenge yourself to post without

    1. telling anybody they’re stupid
    2. mentioning J.J. Abrams or the works of J.J. Abrams

    By limiting yourself to such a very narrow amount of communication you may find yourself in fact liberated.

    But anyway stop being a dick. It would be very easy to make the same points you made in the form of “it makes me sad that you guys couldn’t enjoy this movie” instead of “you are all imbeciles fuck you and fuck a completely unrelated movie that you will never understand why I am bizarrely obsessed with no matter how many times I explain it.” That could’ve been an intelligent post and instead you just make yourself look like an asshole again. Although it’s helping us to appreciate AU more so in that sense it’s kind of a nice thing to do.

  116. You know what, guys? Based on the amount of heat I’ve gotten on this board, I think it’s safe to say that VALHALLA RISING deserves another shot. No movie that arouses such strong emotions as to make at least three different people from from the four corners of the globe insult my intelligence (and in one case, my sexuality) should be written off after just a single viewing.

    I make you this promise: In one year’s time, after the blood spilled from these battles between brothers has soaked into the ground and nourished a thousand saplings, I will watch VALHALLA RISING again so that I might understand this movie that has so touched your hearts and minds, the former with the piercing spear of symbolism, the latter with the bludgeoning rock of awesomeness. Maybe then we will be as one again, the scars from this senseless war healed and forgotten. Maybe then we will laugh again, as in times of yore when Conan did punch the camel.

  117. Very charming and cool post (Vern too). I only want to stress, as if I haven’t already, that the Pusher trilogy is totally worth checking out as well, if only for Pusher III. In fact on Refn’s IMDb trivia page it says: “Of his Pusher trilogy, he prefers the third movie, because it’s the most experimental and risky one.”

    Please don’t overlook Pusher III!

  118. the thing is Asimov, here on this site we don’t feel the need to insult each other if we disagree with something

    unlike the rest of the internet we can agree to disagree and we’re all entitled to our opinion, we’re not forced to agree with some monolithic consensus like sites like Aint It Cool, one can even express their love of Michael Bay or JJ Abrams and we’re cool with it, if that’s your bag

    so as others have said, don’t be a dick

  119. I like Asimov, he’s fuckin crazy.

  120. I hear he once called his grandmother a “demented old bitch” and stuck his thumb in her eye because she bought him pepsi max when what he wanted was just regular pepsi.

  121. Man, Mr Majestyk, I really love Valhalla Rising but it is such an emotional response that you should in no way feel bad for not liking it. I can’t debate you into why it’s a good movie anymore than I could explain why liver and onions is my favorite meal.

    But that’s okay! I think we all respect each other and that’s all that matters.

    Now, Drive, well I think Drive represents everything people on this site wants that I would legitimately be surprised if you didn’t like it.

    What the fuck do I know? I’m the dude who doesn’t like Nolan and thinks Speed Racer is the best movie of the last decade.

  122. I hate to beat a dead horse, but I am going to jump on the pig pile as well. Asimov, it is great that you are so passionate about VR, but why make it personal? Also, why is it so important that everyone agree with your point of view? Art is objective, you can’t expect it to evoke the same response from everyone. Refn has stated that he is much more interested in how people interpret and responded to VR than discussing what he was trying to communicate with the film.

  123. Hey not to interrupt the love-in, but did I read that interview wrong or did Refn honestly say that he envisioned and shot the WHOLE FILM in slow motion? Now THAT might have been pretentious.

  124. AU (Formerly Cunt (Formerly AU_Armageddon (Formerly the Artist Formerly Known As AU_Armageddon)))

    September 19th, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Huh, how are Asimov’s posts worse than mine? I’m baffled. I was reading down and thinkin jeez I like this guy, and then it gets all Rodney King in here!

    I spent 2 days working up to my reply, to just post a few constructive comments, tellin myself no swearing, and no name calling except mebbe just I could slip in one faggot for Majestyk, but that would absolutely be it. I read back through it and I count that somehow my constructive post has managed to include 26 insults.

    Mebbe will try smoker’s approach – cut down to a pack a day first, mebbe give menthol a try. Something Maj would smoke.

    Goddammit! Fuck you all.

  125. Mr. S, he did say that. I think some also mentioned it in this thread. I also read another interview where Refn admitted to being color blind and talked about how that affected his use of color.

  126. Best. Thread. Ever.

    I might have to rent this movie and torture the GF with it, just so I can figure out what everybody is fighting about.

  127. Haven’t seen this, but just saw ‘Drive’ last night. Jesus Christ monkey balls. I loved it. LOVED it. It’s done that thing that all my favourite movies do…….stayed with me. I thought it wasn’t possible anymore, but it is. Easily my favourite film of the year. No contest. Vern, can’t wait to hear what you think…

  128. Finally put up my own piece on this movie (http://demonsresume.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/from-the-archives-valhalla-rising-2010/) — in anticipation of writing about DRIVE. Check it out if you can brother, we seem to always be simpatico.

  129. Gee Whillikers! Not one word from anyone declaring this movie–and I wish not to be insulting, mind you–a total bore! It’s been close to forty years since I was in school and we learned a bit about the Vikings, but this flick did not jar anything out of my distant and dormant memories of Odin and Thor and Valhalla and all that Norse mythology. I ran into a telecast of this film the other night on TV and found myself tempted to change channels, but I forced myself to watch the film to its end. Again, I do not wish to insult the filmmaker and any viewers of it who had positive reactions to the flick, but I myself came away not having enjoyed the movie either as art or as entertainment. I came away with the sensation of having just somehow experienced someone else’s truly boring dream within some beautiful landscapes. What it has brought to mind is a poem we read sometime back in high school about a little dog’s last day and the memory of the first line: “All in the town were still asleep / when the sun came up with a bound and a leap…” and, if memory serves, the ending, which sez, “the little dog died, but he’d had his day!” Hmmm…? Does it suggest that maybe One-Eye had his day?

    (I was having trouble posting this–if it’s a repetition use the second offering)

  130. Finally saw this. I liked it. Mikkelson is one of my new favorite actors (I just re-saw CASINO ROYALE on TV the other day, what’s up with this guy and eyeballs?)

    Native Americans in the olden days actually DID adopt white children after they killed and scalped their parents. Raised them as their own and treated them fairly well if I remember correctly. Haven’t you guys ever seen DANCES WITH WOLVES??

    Either way, in regards to One-Eye’s sacrifice at the end. He spent the first third of the movie killing every damn Viking he laid eyes on because they had enslaved him and forced him to fight and done god knows what else to him (killed his family? parents? He had obviously been a slave for a very long time, at least 5 and probably more like 10-15 years). When his newly acquired “allies” started turning on him he slaughtered them for being assholes too. But in the end, One Eye had a lot more in common with the Natives of the New World than he did with the other Vikings who had tortured and enslaved him and would have killed him in the name of Christianity the first time they saw him if they weren’t afraid of him. I think One Eye felt something of a brotherhood with the Natives, and he knew that even though they had won this skirmish against the technologically superior white men it was only a matter of time before they were overrun, slaughtered, enslaved, and assimilated just like his own heathen people had fallen. So even though he had zero love for his traveling companions and he was perfectly fine seeing them all die (and killing half of them himself), there was no way he could explain to the Natives that he was on their side (since he wasn’t gonna talk, and then of course the language barrier) and they might not have cared anyway. And yeah if he had got out his axe and dagger and gone apeshit on them he might have killed 10-12 of them, but there’s no way he was coming out of that fight alive. I don’t think he cared to kill the Natives anyway. They never did anything bad to him. They were just protecting their land, women, way of life, etc. It would have been kind of out of place for him to kill a dozen Natives in a last stand just before dying “heroically”. One Eye never killed any of those other people to be a hero, he did it because fuck those assholes. They all fucking deserved it. The Natives? He had nothing against them.

    Yep, I liked this one.

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