VALHALLA RISING (15) **** DIRECTED BY: NICOLAS WINDING REFN STARRING: MADS MIKKELSEN, JAMIE SIVES, GARY LEWIS, MAARTEN STEVENSON
DANISH director Nicolas Winding Refn follows up his brilliantly batty biopic of notorious prisoner Charles Bronson with an even more out-there offering.
Eschewing action sequences and horn-helmeted warriors, this long-gestating Viking film takes its cues instead from the trippier elements of Kubrick's 2001 and Herzog's Aguirre, Wrath of God to deliver more of an intimate epic than a straight-up battle movie. Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) takes the lead as One Eye, a preternaturally strong mute warrior who, along with the young boy who tends to him (Maarten Stevenson), leads a band of Jerusalem-seeking Christian Vikings to a metaphorical hell in the New World. Shot entirely in Scotland, and making great use of the locations to create an intense, atmospheric backdrop for One Eye's journey, what Refn has come up with is sort of a hallucinogenic, blood-splattered creation myth, one that follows One Eye's rise from enslaved brawler haunted by apocalyptic visions, to free man then deity. It's not the easiest film to get a handle on, but there's something great about how unashamedly wigged-out and strange it is, and it confirms Refn as one of the most fascinating directors working.