Re-Watch: Valhalla Rising (2009)

Valhalla Rising
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writer: Nicolas Winding Refn, Roy Jacobsen
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Maarten Stevenson, Alexander MortonGary LewisJamie SivesEwan Stewart
[Here’s my first review.]

Around 1000 A.D., a man (Mads Mikkelsen) is enslaved by vikings for his almost supernatural fighting strength. When he is sold from one king to the next, he manages to escape [among other things because he can see the future] together with a boy (Maarten Stevenson). When they meet a group of templars, the boy and the warrior – now called One-Eye – decide to join forces with them to go to the holy land.

I saw Valhalla Rising almost five years ago and the film intrigued me. A lot. So getting another chance to see it in the cinema was quite a treat, especially since I might be even more intrigued after the second watch.


Valhalla Rising would be the perfect movie to dissect and analyze scientifically in my opinion. There’s just so much symbolic potential in it that I think you could make a whole lot of but that just watching it (even if you’re watching it multiple times) probably won’t be enough to get to those layers (whether those layers were intended or not). Personally I would probably go for the question of how Valhalla Rising (de-)constructs masculinity, though it would also be fascinating to look at questions of religion (both Christian and mythology from northern Europe) or colonialism (and all of the intersections between all of them).

But it’s not only a movie for which you need a lot of tools for viewing and patience for understanding and discovering its meanings, the dreamlike structure that always hints at something more, something just beyond the surface is engaging enough even on simple viewing that you want to get into all this work and really dig into the film.

Valhalla_rising1A big part of that are the almost hypnotic images that have lost none of their power on me. Maybe I should watch the film in the intimacy of a small screen at some point to see if it feels different, but I can barely imagine the movie outside of a cinema. And then there’s Mads Mikkelsen of course, who is at least as hypnotic as the cinematography. It’s amazing how much he can do without dialogues and a generally rather stoic facial expression.

I have seen a few Refn movies after this one, but Valhalla Rising is still my favorite so far (even though I also liked the others). It’s just a really extraordinary film.

Valhalla_rising2Summarizing: Yes, watch it.

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