Nicolas Winding Refn is not known for standing still, rolling off the back of his infamous Pusher Trilogy and straight into the hard-hitting Bronson, by way of an Agatha Christie adapation of course. Making waves across the world with his action film to end all action films, Drive, Refn’s Valhalla Rising is a unique change of pace for the Danish director. While it maintains much of the brutal violence that characterises Refn’s earlier work, it also takes the action back 1000 years or so to the Viking Age of Scotland.
A mute Norse warrior known only as One-Eye (Mads Mikkelsen, Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky), held captive by the Scottish cheiftan Barde (Alexander Morton, TV’s Luther) and forced to fight for the amusement of the clansmen. Endowed with the mystical ability to foresee events in his dreams, he is able to escape, slaughtering everybody except a young boy named Are. Followed by the boy, One-Eye soon encounters Christian Crusaders on a mission to the Holy Land. However, when One-Eye accompanies them on their journey, what they discover is not what they expected.
A surprisingly spiritual and contemplative piece from Refn, characterised by some beautiful cinematography from Morten Søborg (In A Better World). Filmed entirely on location in Scotland, the lush green landscapes and thick foreboding forests are tempered by the bloody wash of red that not only flows freely from the bodies of just about everybody that comes into contact with One-Eye, but from the filter applied to a number of scenes throughout the film. The visions that One-Eye receives are intensified as the film builds to its inevitably bloody conclusion, and this adds a psychedelic quality that taps into the Viking mysticism often overlooked in previous films set in the 10th century. A strong indicator of Refn’s versatility as a filmmaker, and pending the success of Only God Forgives and the Logan’s Run remake, a sojourn through Greek mythology with Wonder Woman seems to await him.
Unsurprisingly, this is a crisp presentation of a recent film, and the stunning photography looks magnificent on this DVD. We would love to see this on Blu-ray, and local readers may want to import the impressive UK Blu-ray (which can be found for as little as £5 at the moment). Likewise, the audio is strong and free from any noticeable errors.
An audio commentary with dirctor Nicolas Winding Refn and UK journalist Alan Jones is incredibly informative, and is in English. It is a fairly lively track, and having Jones guiding the track makes all the difference here. There’s also a featurette called The Making of Valhalla Rising, which is a bit of a fly on the wall piece, along with the Theatrical Trailer, and Madman trailers for Bronson, Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America, Animal Kingdom and Sin Nombre.
Valhalla Rising was released in Australia on 13 April 2011 from Madman.