Sunday, October 16, 2011

Just Watched: Valhalla Rising

Valhalla Rising is one weird movie.  It's not the weirdest movie I've ever seen but it ranks up there.  (The honor of weirdest belongs to Begotten)
The film has a neat premise:  A mysterious man raised in the fighting pits of dark-age Scotland escapes and joins a band of crusaders on a journey to the holy lands.  Things start to go wrong almost immediately however and they end up in a misty forested land populated by savages.

 The mood was dark and the story seemed to reek of mythic portent.  The musical score was heavy and droning.  The camera lingered on the actors faces and the cold and wild landscapes.  I love that sort of stuff.  So I find myself asking: why didn't I like Valhalla Rising more?  I didn't hate film, but I didn't love it either.  It left me rather ambivalent. .

I'm no Joseph Campbell but I can usually spot a creation myth, a hero's journey or a parable of Jesus.  Unfortunately, I didn't get what this was film was trying to accomplish.  We had an escape from bondage, a voyage of redemption that turned into a decent into hell and finally a sacrifice that did something albeit I couldn't tell what beyond it turning the sky purple. All along the hero killed many people in big gobs of flying blood, had various red-toned premonitions and near the end he built a cairn of rocks that defied physics and took a bunch of dips in the water.   I'd love to be able to construct some deep meaning from all of that but it is beyond me.

In many ways it reminded me of the existential bleakness found in my oft-referenced favorite author Cormac McCarthy's novels.  It shared a lot of the same elements.  The insignificance of man and the futility  dreams or of spirituality itself in a harsh natural world.   Or that could just be me projecting my own meaning on an essentially meaningless film.

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