Like a twisted, barbarian version of Terrence Mallick’s The Thin Red Line, Valhalla Rising floats through its narrative with a melancholy pace, attempting to put the viewer into the world of Mads Mikkelsen’s One Eye – the captured warrior who is forced to fight rival clan’s slaves. But the pace is so leisurely and the narrative so non-existent it puts you into a dream-like state… if that dream was being conducted by Satan.
I’m the last person to be uncomfortable with a film that has almost no dialogue (such as Conan the Barbarian), but Valhalla Rising’s plot has almost no driving force… and so we almost beg for more. The film takes place in stages – Earth, Purgatory and Hell. It gives you the sense that more things will happen in each, pushing the story further – but you’d be wrong.
I was a fan of the director’s Pusher trilogy and believe he is bound for some pretty cool things – and almost view this film as more of a canvas that he was practicing on. He did some cool things, and within a tighther, more linear framework would have been exciting. If you’re in the mood for an experimental arthouse barbarian film, this is for you. It’s interesting, for sure… but I don’t know if I can mentally handle another trip into this madman’s vision of Hell.