I don't know if Valhalla Rising
is a Shoot The Shaggy Dog Story
, but it felt like one. There's probably some sort of message here likely involving religion, spirituality, and redemption, but I haven't been able to tell what it is.
I suppose it could be interpreted as anti-religion: The Christian Vikings are introduced apparently having finished some sort of religiously-motivated atrocity, and the Native Americans similarly kill them one by one for the heinous crime of taking a walk through their burial ground. The Christian Viking leader is ultimately corrupt and gets his whole party killed for his glory quest, the non-Christian character is the one who gets something remotely close to a redemption ending. But at that moment I was shaking my fists asking "Why??" at the apparent Diabolus Ex Machina
instead of feeling any sort of catharsis. I don't know, there may be something more subtle here that I'm missing, if that's the case I'd be glad if someone could enlighten me.
But in any case, what made Valhalla Rising
worth watching for me was that it's definitely
got style. I'd say it's comparable to No Country For Old Men
in this regard. The movie somehow manages to instill a sense of ominousness without relying on a lot of violence or scary imagery, and anything remotely close to a villain doesn't even show up until the fourth act (out of six total), and there is no direct confrontation with them until the very ending. The violence is kind of refreshing—there's not a lot, but the few gory instances isn't glorified action movie violence, or Torture Porn
. It's just there. There's not a lot of talking, but there is a lot of slow, quiet scenes (and Scenery Porn
). The soundtrack is just right, I don't think this movie would have been as effective without it. In another movie the surreal imagery would have been narmy
, but here it actually works because of the soundtrack and the overall tone.
In short: I don't regret watching it. Whether I'll want to watch it again depends on if I hit a Fridge Brilliance
moment further down the road that elevates Valhalla Rising
from "pretty but incomprehensible/substance-less art film". I'll gladly eat my words if that happens.