Valhalla Rising. Directed by Nicholas Winding Renf (who cites his middle name to distinguish from Nicholas Rodham Renf or Sarah Jessica Renf, the other Danish directors). Starring Maarten Steeveensoon, Goordoon Broown, Maads Mikkeellsseen (the evil Le Chiffre—variously pronounced and French for “Indic-cum-Arabic concept of the zero,” perhaps referring to the humor coefficient of that film… or the joy content of this one—from the latest Casino Royale and whose otherwise squinty eye has transmummified into a welded-shut eye…He’s called “One-Eye, but there may actually be one in there, just inaccessible).
Since we’re doing Northland stuff (Thor), might give a look to this strange Danish pastry, confection located somewhere in the cinee-mah spectrum between the Icelandic Beowulf and Grendel (Gerard Butler) and the Germanic Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (Klaus Kinsky). These things, not unwatchable, either, though unremittingly dreary—are long on sultry, lugubrious atmosphere, endless pans over a brooding and hostile Nature in which starving, sweating, soiled (morally, physically) warriors battle demons, inward and outward, along with the malevolent forced indwelling the vapors and eddies of Ur-Time or Time BG (Before Grooming). Very little dialogue here, a mercy in the end, though this flick in hardly dumb, so we might’ve got more good words if we’d got more words. Anyhow. What little we say is perhaps necessary and what’s not necessary we do not say.
One-Eye, who might I guess pass as the star of the movie, is a wordless feral who speaks not a line. As we meet him, he’s prisoner of a band of louts who release him from his cage long enough to win wagers in lethal fights with champions (word used loosely here) from other lout-bands. He’s rudimentarily served by a small, blond boy, the sole human being both human and to whom he allows access. The lout-band drags him from lout-bout to lout-bout and the end of long poles fastened to his neck. Somehow, with an arrowhead unearthed in his cage, he frees himself, lays louts about, strikes out… followed by the faithful urchin who serves to interpret his sentiments to a congregation of explorer/Viking/crusaders, set on bringing the “cross” to the “heathen,” as we’re warned in an opening epigraph, at the “fringes of the earth.” White letters across the screen divide the action into segments, “acts,” one might suppose, in a device also seen in Beowulf and Grendel. The “heathen” in this instance, whom we meet after a becalmed interval asea in a drakkar (Norse for “bigass boat fulla bigass fat guys with beards who laugh at Fate”), appear to be Mohawks, sporting those… well, mohawks and toting long clubs with balls on the end of them. Here we get (even the one eye thing) The Vikings (Kirk Douglas and, improbably, Tony Curtis as a slave from New Jersey) via Thirteenth Warrior.
Things do not go well in this new land, though, and though One-Eye reveals himself to be essentially benign, he, too, must suffer the fate of the newcomer in what I take to be a cinee-mah explanation of why was the Dutch and Spanish and those guys in the funny black hats and white collars who finally settled America. Thanks for coming. No women to speak of in this thing, though one woulda thought the Danes might be tempted to profit from the ambience to feature a couple of nubile Scandanavixens wearing nothing but smudge as counterpoint to the gruesome guys. There is, I think, a small terrified knot of women seen waaaaay in the distance and whom One-Eye, that one eye duly rinsed, as we say in French, rescues from coarser loutage. Not much of a story but an atmosphere and mood almost hypnotically compelling. You watch it see if/when something will happen though curiously, when nothing does, you’re not sorry you invested the time.