Valhalla Rising (2009)

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Released 13-Apr-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure Audio Commentary-Director Nicolas Winding Refn and journalist Alan Jones
Featurette-Making Of
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Madman Propaganda x 4
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 88:47 (Case: 93)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (62:43) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Mads Mikkelsen
Alexander Morton
Stewart Porter
Maarten Stevenson
Mathew Zajac
Gordon Brown
Gary McCormack
Andrew Flanagan
James Ramsey
Gary Lewis
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Peter Kyed
Peter Peter


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     In the Scottish Highlands One-eye (Mads Mikkelsen) is a mute slave, kept by his master to fight in brutal contests to the death, his owner betting on the outcome. He is kept in a cage and chained like an animal, a boy (Maarten Stevenson) being the only person who can safely feed him. When One-eye escapes, he takes revenge by slaughtering his previous owner and his people before leaving, followed by the boy. They meet, and join, a party of Viking Crusaders led by Erik (Ewan Stewart) journeying to Jerusalem. However, on their way by ship to Jerusalem the group are becalmed and enveloped in a thick mist; and instead of the Holy Land they arrive in North America and find hell. In the New World, the Crusaders turn against each other while unseen Indians in the forest pick off the survivors one by one. In this private hell, as One-eye becomes like a god, can he lead at least the boy out of the wilderness?

     Valhalla Rising received some indifferent reviews and sunk without a trace at the box office. This is probably due to poor marketing and people’s expectations that Valhalla Rising is an action adventure; it is not. For while Valhalla Rising features Vikings and Indians, there are none of the extended action or chase sequences that feature, for example, in Pathfinder. Instead, Valhalla Rising, from writer / director Nicholas Winding Refn (Bronson), is an intense, allegorical and mesmerising film that is surreal in its beauty and intensity. Dialogue is almost non-existent, the weight of the narrative being carried by the stunning visuals, courtesy of cinematographer Morten Soborg, the powerful acting of Mikkelsen and an atonal score by Peter Kyed and Peterpeter, that is discordant and alienating. The film does have indeed its share of violence and bloodshed, but these sequences are not ballets of stylish action but brutal, messy encounters, short, muddy and gory. This is a mist shrouded, bleak, wet and muddy environment where no-one is heroic or honourable.

     Nicholas Winding Refn states that the film should be viewed as “science fiction, without the science” and cites influences such as Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. It is full of hypnotic, long takes and silences, is slow, obscure and allegorical with subsections entitled “Wrath”, Silent Warrior”, “Men of God”, “The Holy Land”, “Hell” and finally “The Sacrifice” which do give a good idea of the content of the film. It is also violent and brutal and thus is not an easy film to get into. But if one comes to Valhalla Rising without preconceptions, the reward is an experience that is beautiful, intense and quite mesmerising in its intensity. Watch it: Valhalla Rising is very different to any other film you will see this year.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Valhalla Rising is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced. This is not a perfect print as it was shot in remote, windswept locations often using hand held cameras. As a result sharpness varies, but is never unacceptable, while detail in close-ups is good. Blacks were fine but shadow detail can be indistinct. The film has a brown colour palate and greens and other colours are muted, except where One-eye’s visions appear in vibrant red. This is in keeping with the misty, wet landscapes. There were also other instances of colour manipulation, such as where a Viking, previously killed, appears to the survivors with a yellow / brown skin tone. Brightness and contract are fine. There is some grain evident but I did not notice any film or film to video artefacts.

     The English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available in a large, clear yellow font. As there is very little dialogue, in the portion I sampled every word was subtitled although there was nothing other than dialogue.

     The layer change at 62:40 created a slight pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is a choice between English Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps or 2.0 at 224 Kbps. A 2.0 audio commentary track is also available. Not surprisingly, the 5.1 was the more vibrant and enveloping audio although the 2.0 was surround encoded and did a reasonable job in the section I sampled.

     In the 5.1 the dialogue was sometimes a little difficult to hear, but as there was not a lot of it, and subtitles were available, it was not an issue. The surrounds constantly carried effects, wind and music while the subwoofer was frequently in use adding effective bass to the atonal score.

     Lip synchronisation is fine, given the very limited dialogue.

     As noted, the score by Peter Kyed and Peterpeter, is atonal, discordant and alienating, providing excellent and effective support for the film’s visuals.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary with director Nicolas Winding Refn and journalist Alan Jones

     Alan Jones prompts Refn with questions. This is a non-stop commentary that is somewhat dry but does provide a wealth of information about the origins, influences, score, visual style and the psychological underpinnings of the film; One-eye as slave, warrior, god and finally man. It does explain many of the intentions and the subtexts within the film. Worth a listen, but can be pretentious.

The Making of Valhalla Rising (22:05)

     This is not an EPK but more a short film in its own right featuring music from the likes of The Windows, Terry Hughes, Jess Brown and Craig Hewitt plus camera moves not usually seen in a “making of”. It is an entertaining and amusing look at filming a Viking film in a remote, hostile environment in the Scottish Highlands. It is centred upon the experiences of director’s assistant Saskia Pomeroy with additional comments from writer / director Nicolas Winding Refn about his influences and intentions.

Theatrical Trailer (1:27)

Madman Propaganda

     Trailers for other films from Madman. Included is Bronson (2:27), Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America (2:33), Animal Kingdom (2:14) and Sin Nombre (1:57).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 1 US release of the film has only a trailer as an extra, while the Region 2 UK, as far as I can tell, is similar to our release. Stick to the local product.

Summary

     Valhalla Rising from writer / director Nicholas Winding Refn is an intense, allegorical and mesmerising film that is surreal in its beauty and intensity. Just don’t expect action adventure and you may have a rewarding experience. This is very different to any other film you will see this year.

     The DVD comes with reasonable video and good audio, plus a range of genuine and interesting extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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