Valhalla Rising (2009)
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn.
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen (One Eye), Maarten Stevenson (Are / The Boy), Gordon Brown (Hagen), Andrew Flanagan (Gudmond), Gary Lewis (Kare), Gary McCormack (Hauk), Alexander Morton (Barde), Jamie Sives (Gorm), Ewan Stewart (Eirik), Mathew Zajac (Malkolm ).
year 1000 A.D., discovery of the new world
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Part I. Wrath.
A blonde headed boy brings up a bucket containing soup. Men are are all around the mountains in this section watching. The boy goes over to a crude cage to feed the slave, who is mute. The man's name will become One Eye in the near future. One Eye is used as a gladiator to kill other men in combat without weapons. Bets are made on who will be the winner and, of course, the winners collect. A match between two men takes place and one is the victor and the other is dead. Now One Eye, with an iron collar connected to an iron chain around his neck, is brought out. He is chained to a post. Two men are sent over to kill One Eye. One Eye manages to kill both men in a gruesome fight.
The clan takes One Eye and moves him back to his cage. They keep him chained even when in the cage. A challenger arrives, One Eye is brought out and chained to the fence and kills his opponent. After the fight, they let One Eye take a bath in a pond. At the bottom of the pond on a rock he finds an arrowhead. He picks it up and puts it in his mouth.
One of the pagans say that these followers of the white Christ are bastards. It is said that they eat of His flesh and drink His blood. And these Christians want us dead.
The chieftain says that they cannot let One-Eye go. They need him because the clan needs money. They hood their fighting slave and take him away.
One Eye walks patiently along without any resistance. The men have to camp at night. The next morning they all start walking again. When One Eye is ready, he takes out his arrowhead, gets rid of his hood and drags the front handler to him by the chain. He then slits the handler's throat. One Eye then kills the other handler. A third man runs away. The boy hides from One Eye. There is just one other man to deal with. One Eye ties this fellow to a huge boulder and kills him with the arrowhead.
One Eye has cut off the head of the chieftain. He thrusts a spear into the ground and then puts the severed head onto the upright spearhead. One of the pagans says that One Eye is driven by hate and that's why he never loses.
Part II. Silent Warrior.
One Eye starts walking by himself. The boy follows behind him at quite a distance. The weather is nasty: foggy, cold, dank and dark. When One Eye stops for a rest the boy joins him. One Eye has a vision of dead men in a boat.
One Eye and the boy start walking and run into a gruesome scene. Some Christian Vikings have killed all the men of a pagan village and burned their bodies in a bonfire. The pagan women are naked (very brief nudity) and huddled together on the side of the hill. They are being watched by a guard. The Viking chief asks the two newcomers if they are from the clan? The boy says no. The chief asks: "Are you Christians?" The boy says yes. The chief says: "You're lying." He calls for his son to kill One Eye. Another man warns the chief and his son not to do it. He says about One Eye: "He's one of the biggest savages in Sutherland." The fellow killed his chieftain's son and most of his men. The son wisely decides not to attack One Eye.
The chief asks what is the man's name? The boy says he's called One Eye. The chief says the two strangers can eat with them and talk. After dinner the boy makes it clear that the only thing he wants to do is to go home. The chief tells One Eye that he could use a good fighter like him. They are heading to Jerusalem to re-conquer the Holy Land. A crusader can become wealthy because there's riches and lands to be hadt. One of the fellows seems very religious and acts as sort of a priest for the group. He tells One Eye and the boy to come with them, for their sins will be absolved. One Eye starts walking again. The chief asks the priest if he thinks the man will come back? The priest says: "If it's God's will."
Part III. Men of God.
One Eye and the boy are on a small ship with the Christian Vikings. The priest talks to the boy and tells him that whenever he is scared, he prays to Christ. The ship stays still. A terrible mist obscures their views and there is no discernable wind. The priest tells the boy about going to protect God's lands. One of the men drinks saltwater and dies. They throw him overboard. The men go to sleep. The Vikings are very superstitious and they begin to think that the boy is the cause of their being stranded here. So one of the crew volunteers to kill the boy. He takes out a dagger and moves toward the boy. One Eye kills the would-be assassin with a knife and throws his body overboard. The rest of the men want to kill One Eye, but the chief puts a stop to that. He asks the boy where is One Eye from? The boy says he was brought out of hell. Someone remarks: maybe that's where we're going.
A water bucket starts rolling on the bottom of the ship. One Eye picks it up. He goes over to the side of the boat and fills the container with water. He proceeds to drink the water. One of the crew laughs at One Eye for drinking salt water. One Eye hands the man the container and tells him to drink it. The man obeys and discovers that it's fresh water, not salt water. The other men are awakened so they can all have a drink of water.
Part IV. The Holy Land.
The men reach a shore. The area appears to be all mountains and forest. The Vikings go ashore. The boy and the priest stay behind to watch the boat. The men walk through some wetlands with lots of green grass. They come to an Indian burial ground where the dead are placed on top of raised platforms. One Eye keeps having visions. The chief has a cross erected to let everyone and anyone know that good Christians were here. One Eye goes for a walk. A Viking hears some rustling in the bushes and goes to investigate. One Eye returns with a sword. The chief asks where did One Eye get the sword? The red-headed Vikings says: "He killed him. He'll kill us all one by one."
The chief says they have to keep moving in order that they might be able to tell where they are. The men get back on the boat and start rowing along the shore. All of a sudden an arrow goes half-way through one of the crew. The Vikings go ashore ready to fight, but there's no one there.
Part V. Hell.
Back at the graveyard they find a stone arrowhead, not an iron one. The chief says that these people must be primitives. Three men are now dead and one is missing. The chief says they will. claim this land and they will build a New Jerusalem on it.
One Eye has a vision of Indians killing a white man with their war clubs. The boy sees the red-headed Viking killing another Viking. One Eye builds a cairn out of the local stones. A man with two bad eyes comes up and speaks to One Eye. It looks as if the man was held captive by the Indians for awhile because he is dressed like them and his body is covered with a red mud like the natives. The Vikings come over and the man with two bad eyes says that One Eye talks. What is he saying? He says we're in hell. Redhead shouts: "I told you. He brought us here." The boy says that One Eye says to leave this place. But the chief says he wants to convert the heathens to Christianity. Red just wants to kill the boy. Instead of that happening, One Eye slits Red's throat and kills two Viking associates of Red.
One Eye now starts walking into the forest to get up to the mountain tops. The boy follows him. The priest wants to go with One Eye. The chieftain thinks the priest is abandoning him and he stabs the priest.
Part VI. The Sacrifice.
The one-time captive of the Indians laughs at the chief's notion of a New Jerusalem. One Eye is on top of a hill and he looks over the land. The Viking chief steps into a pond where he is hit by three arrows and goes down under the water.
The priest is still alive and he starts following One Eye and the boy. So too does the son of the now dead chief. One Eye walks up another hill. On the top of the hill during a rest period, the priest says that he came on the crusade to asks forgiveness of his sins against his sons. He was not there when all of them died in battle. The boy tells the priest that One Eye says he is going to reach the sea and there build a new boat. They are going to go home. The chief's son asks the boy: "What about me?" The boy says: "You're going to die." The chief's son doesn't believe it. Now he says he has to go back to be with his father. He leaves. The priest is going to stay on the hill and die, indicated by the many flies starting to fly around the priest with his wound.
One Eye and the boy go through a huge colony of ferns and up farther into the mountains. From a mountain top they see a huge body of water. They walk down to the shore and the boy tells One Eye that the water is salty. One Eye looks behind him and sees the rocky area covered with Indians. One Eye goes to be sacrificed in order to save the boy. Just as in his vision, One Eye is clubbed to death. Then the Indians leave the area. The boy now stands alone.
This is not really an historic film. It has the trappings of one, but there is no real story to relate to here. The only story is that a group of Vikings landed in North America. After that it's all fiction. The story itself is interesting. The film is very much an action film and should please the lovers of this type of movies. It kept my interest throughout. Mads Mikkelsen as One Eye was very good and Maarten Stevenson was also good. The film was shot in different places in Scotland. The director describes the film as a "Viking science fiction movie in a metaphysical sense". He himself had come to America when he was eight years old and this got him thinking about the early discoverers of America. For the Vikings, America would have seemed like coming to the moon, he says. (But the Scandinavian countries have forests too, so why should it be so strange?) The directors says he was influenced greatly by science-fiction and mythology. He sums up: "If you're ready to travel into space, this is the movie to go watch."
The film has just a little talking and names of the characters are not used in the actual film except for One Eye.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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