keskiviikko 17. heinäkuuta 2013

Valhalla Rising: The Descent To Hell

Surprisingly Complex: Valhalla Rising

Valhalla Rising is a silent movie, not technology-wise, but art-wise. If I wrote it all down, I wouldn't probably need even two A4:s to have all the spoken dialogue in the movie. Even One-eye, our kind-of protagonist, doesn't utter a spoken word in the whole movie.

What's so fascinating then about keeping silence? Because then you realize how many times dialogue can actually be in the way when watching a movie. Valhalla Rising has the bare minimum of dialogue, but the weird part is, almost none of it is exposition. It's mostly just people talking. Valhalla Rising is also a very slow movie, having "action" highlights only in the very beginning, and in the very end. This breaks the central rules of 3-act structure, but it works. The movie makes you wait, and when something happens, it happens really quick and usually quite chaotically.

Nicolas Winding Refn, the director, himself said that the movie is a "viking sci-fi" and I can see where he's coming from. The sci-fi elements come from the main group ending up in a foreign land, and trying to survive there. That put aside, it's important to note that Valhalla Rising is not an action movie, even though the trailer makes it look like so. It's a meditative piece of film about death.
The main thing people miss (Which isn't a surprise, as it's never mentioned) is that One-eye is not actually human. He's Odin, the one eyed king of gods. He's also the god of death, bringing the wrong-believing (In this context) christians to what they call hell, Asgard. The boat trip across the ocean was actually a journey to the other side. I don't know if intentional, but every character except One-eye have this weird glow (It can be seen on some shots as colors turning lighter right next to them) coming from their bodies when they're on the other side of the ocean. Maybe they're actually already dead?

It's also interesting how Valhalla Rising takes and mixes things by practically making everyone a bad guy. There are no goody-two-shoes in here, only people going after their goals with all they can. Usually involving in bloodshed. The only "innocent" one is of course the boy, who is spared in the hands of the native Americans. Yes, they are native Americans. Of course, someone could take this as some kind of political satire of Refn stating that America IS hell, which would be funny.

Hey, remember those random red scenes? Noticed how they were shown before they happened in the movie? Good. They were Odin's visions of future. He foresaw everything, and that's why he was unbeatable in battle. Also, the whole last chapter of the movie is one vision of his, as he actually drowns himself about midway to chapter 4, as we're shown after the first ending. Why? Because it's the only way the balance can be restored (Shown by the rocks he tries to pile). The first ending (Odin being killed by the native Americans) is also false because it would make Odin a christ-like figure, which isn't the case. He does the sacrifice (Drowning himself) to free one and to doom the others only to preserve balance. He doesn't actually die, he just leaves Asgard. That's why we see his figure against the sky in the end.

Also, it seems that only pure people can communicate with Odin, such as the boy and the "spiritual advisor." They are both capable of hearing Odin's voice, even though he doesn't move his mouth. Still, Odin's actions set him apart from a generic masculine action hero by the fact that he isn't a good guy. Gods are not the paragons of goodwill in the Norse Mythology. They are brutal and fierce, much like One-eye/Odin here.

Of course, as it is never really said where the boy's home is, we can assume it's Valhalla. We can assume he was a spirit all along, and now that he came back to Asgard, he can finally go home. Just a speculation.

Anyway, all I got to say, I love this movie so much. It's slow but never boring, silent and full of personality, one of my definite favorite films ever. I have watched it a half a dozen times, and I will continue to watch it again and again.


One-eye is Odin, the silent protagonist with actual personality who sees in the future. Piling the rocks was a symbol of balance of the world.

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