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1000 AD, for years, One Eye, a mute warrior of supernatural strength, has been held prisoner by the Norse chieftain Barde. Aided by Are, a boy slave, One Eye slays his captor and together he and Are escape, beginning a journey into the heart of darkness. On their flight, One Eye and Are board a Viking vessel, but the ship is soon engulfed by an endless fog that clears only as the crew sights an unknown land. As the new world reveals its secrets and the Vikings confront their terrible and bloody fate, One Eye discovers his true self.
For more about Valhalla Rising and the Valhalla Rising Blu-ray release, see Valhalla Rising Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 1, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Maarten Stevenson, Gordon Brown, Andrew Flanagan, Gary Lewis
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
» See full cast & crew
Valhalla Rising Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 1, 2010
Screened at the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn's "Valhalla Rising" (2009) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Canadian distributors Entertainment One Films. The supplemental features on the disc include standard making of featurette and trailers for various E1 Entertainment productions. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
Give Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn a lot of credit - and wish him luck. His latest film, Valhalla Rising, is a brutal masterpiece which, I am convinced, will be passionately criticized by religious fanatics in this country after IFC Films release it in June.
The film opens up in pagan Scotland where a mute warrior, One-Eye (Mads Mikkelsen, Open Hearts; Casino Royal), is held prisoner by a cruel Viking Chief and his men. He manages to break free and kills everyone but a young boy named Are (Maarten Stevenson). Together, they join a group of Christian crusaders heading to Jerusalem to reconquer the Holy Land from the infidels.
The crusaders, however, get lost at sea and instead of reaching the Promised Land arrive at an unknown land. There, they begin to lose their minds. Some of the crusaders question God, as they don't understand why he has betrayed them, and quickly get killed by their leader; others get killed by the unseen natives. Eventually, One-Eye, Are, and the last two of the crusaders leave the dead behind and head deep into the heart of the unknown land.
Valhalla Rising is an intense, brutal and seriously disturbing film. However, it is also beautiful to look at. Most of the footage from the first half of the film, for example, was apparently shot in Scotland, at locations where no film crew has previously attempted shooting - though it really feels as if it was shot somewhere in Scandinavia.
Valhalla Rising is formally divided into six chapters ľ Wrath, Silent Warrior, Men of God, The Holy Land, Hell, and The Sacrifice ľ each marking a change in tone and direction within the narrative. All six chapters, however, share identical rhythm.
The dialog is extremely limited. The main character, One-Eye, for example, does not utter a single word, but this seems to have worked to his advantage. Some of the most powerful scenes in Valhalla Rising are the ones where the camera studies his scarred face.
I have difficult time summing up what the message of Valhalla Rising is, though I feel that it has a lot in common with the message of Carlos Saura's El Dorado. Certainly, the manner in which Refn questions man's dependence on religion seems quite similar to the manner in which Saura analyzes religion's relationship with culture.
Admittedly though, what makes Valhalla Rising such an amazing film is precisely the fact that it manages to confuse and ultimately seriously disturb its audience - without ever feeling trivial. With other words, this isn't a film that needs to be understood; rather, it has to be experienced.
Technically, Valhalla Rising looks solid. Refn's direction is assured, and the color-manipulations throughout the film are very effective. Cinematographer Morten S°borg, who collaborated with Susanne Bier on the Oscar-nominated Danish drama After the Wedding, certainly deserves a lot of credit for the film's intense visuals. The music score is also outstanding.
Note: According to TheFilmConsumer.com, Refn was inspired to shoot Valhalla Rising after he saw Mario Bava's cult classic The Planet of the Vampires and a rune-stone in Delaware, and read unnamed 1950s sci-fi novel and comic.
Valhalla Rising Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Nicolas Winding Refn's Valhalla Rising arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Canadian distributors Entertainment One Films.
I don't see a sizable gap in quality between this high-definition transfer and the one Momentum Pictures used for their Blu-ray release of Valhalla Rising in the United Kingdom. If anything, the E1 Entertainment high-definition transfer looks just a tiny bit lighter, but the difference really is extremely small. There are still some minor inconsistencies - mostly soft halo effects, which, to be honest, are quite difficult to spot due to the manner in which Valhalla Rising was shot (Refn used the Red One camera) - but the basics are very much intact. For example, during the daylight scenes fine object detail and clarity are outstanding. The various color manipulations are also very effective. Once again, there are no serious stability issues. Blown through a digital projector, Valhalla Rising conveys terrific depth and tightness. Lastly, I did not detect any purely transfer-related anomalies to report in this review. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location).
Valhalla Rising Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Entertainment One Films have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is outstanding. There are some outstanding ambient effects (wind blowing, arrows hitting targets, etc) that create a truly unique atmosphere, one that I believe is amongst the key reasons why Valhalla Rising works so well. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and exceptionally easy to follow. Finally, while viewing Valhalla Rising I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or audio dropouts to report in this review.
Valhalla Rising Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Valhalla Rising Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This very attractively priced Canadian Blu-ray release of Nicolas Winding Refn's Valhalla Rising is a great alternative for everyone in Region-A lands who could not take advantage of the Momentum Pictures Blu-ray release. It is a shame that this most unique film isn't getting a local U.S. Blu-ray release, but it is what it is. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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