joi, 1 martie 2012

The Viking Suicides [EN]

Valhalla Rising (Denmark, 2009), Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

The Vikings have a widely respected name. A thousand years ago, it was probably also a feared name in most of the known world. I'm guessing that's because they conquered most of the known world. As such, it was only natural they would stretch a bit towards the unknown world. That's why I'm saying, without knowing to much about their American expedition, that they were the outcome of a planned politics rather than accident.

But when it comes to vikings, I wouldn't dare contradict a Danish. And Nicholas Winding Refn, the director of Valhalla Rising, seems to disagree with me. His vikings, or at least a group of their Christian minority, are going on a crusade on their own. Only instead of Jerusalem they get to New Foundland. Common mistake...

The story unwhirls around a character with no name or lines of dialogue. He's called One Eye because he's only got one eye. But the guy depriving him of his eye must've been a hell of a fighter, as One Eye is a clear winner of all the fights he gets in throughout the movie. And there are quite a few. Some of them organized, although I failed to see the purpose, others spontaneous, started by dudes learning nothing from seeing One Eye killing the ones before them. Not only is he a good fighter, but the guy seems to do better than everybody in all areas. So much better it makes you wonder if mistaking America for Jerusalem is really accidental. Because, come on...

The theme of the non-speaking hero seems to be catchy for the critics. It's an idea imported from far-eastern movies (Japan and Korea) and these movies are successful with a certain section of the public. I don't like saying "with hipsters", but I think I just did. I agree images express more than words, but saying this I'm thinking the mute cinema, City Lights, Gold Rush or The Great Train Robbery. Their gestures were much ampler and the attitudes much more theatrical. Simply because there were no other means of telling the story. Whereas the long shots or slow pans don't seem to grip me in the same way. I just feel they're robbing minutes out of my life. There are plenty of methods for creating character depth or adding intensity to the action, and using lenghty shots is just the most unfortunate. Specially since most of the time they only get the spectator bored. As for the non-speaking character, I love the Patrick Swayze vs. Orange board commercial. I'm with the board guys.

Another theme worth mentioning in the movie is the expansion of Christianity in spite of the old Gods. The title brings the idea forward, it is the topic of the opening dialogue and it is a common topic of this kind of stories (Beowulf, Die Niebelungenlied). Interestiung to note that, when confronted with other faiths, the Christians usually end up looking bad. They even made comics about it.

I'm curios about how the Valhalla Rising script must have loooked, because the dialogue lines wouldn't fill more than three pages. I wonder if there were detailed descriptions of what the characters were supposed to be doing or it was a lot of improvising going on. Anyway, if they'd have gone with the American rule of 1 minute per page, this would have been a short film.

To conclude, the movie gets minus marks for story and documentation. The image is sharp and crisp, and the dominant tones are dark. It was probably shot on digital, but I'm ok with that, it's not disturbing. The acting gets a big "meh!" from me. I liked the kid the most, he's a nice dissonance. The amerindiands at the end are actually sino-indiands, they look like native Brazilians and have some suspiciously looking outfits.

And if I am to judge the entire Danish cinema by this unique movie I've seen... it would remain unique.

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