Nicolas Windign Refn has us used to his oddities and excesses by now. What happened with ‘Drive’ It was a mirage, a Danish approach to commercial American cinema, where he did not lose an iota of the overwhelming personality that characterizes his cinema, but he did simplify the complex narratives that he usually uses so that the plot and rhythm of the film were more accessible. If we focus on his beginnings, all the productions he directed are European, and after the movie that made Ryan Gosling a star, more of the same (removing his TV series or the future remake of ‘Maniac Cop’). Not only does nationality change, this is where we find the real Nicolas Windign Refn, the most unleashed, the one who unleashes violence and shows his most provocative character.
‘Bronson’ it is a very unusual biopic, ‘Pusher 2’ gives organized crime movies a twist and ‘Only God forgives’ it is as particular as the movie I am here to talk about today. At the recent BCN Film Fest I was able to see ‘Valhalla Rising’, which opens in our country this Friday, almost 12 years after passing through festivals. Time has not affected him at all, and it is a film that leaves its mark.
Its visual power is immense. In the 100 minutes that it lasts, it is difficult not to be totally captivated by those open shots of the spectacular Scottish landscapes where it was filmed or hypnotized by the superb photography. The use of colors to represent different scenarios or emotions and a very atmospheric sound design makes it a sensitive, engaging and stimulating experience. A dirty experience, that drags you through the mud and makes you uncomfortable. It is more than justified that it is labeled on many occasions as experimental cinema. It is the strangest of a director who is already quite special and the feelings that he arouses in you have much more weight in the whole than the plot. This can also be its biggest handicap, because if you don’t connect with the film, its duration will be eternal and you won’t have a good time. It has a pretty spectacular start, with action, fights and blood, but it is the only respite it gives you. It is not a film for everyone, you have to be aware of the type of production you are going to see and to be able to do, to do it on the big screen, where it is greatly enhanced. The feeling of being lost, out of place, without a specific direction. That’s what NWR transmits to us, and it makes us feel like the characters we see on screen.
The common thread could be written on a napkin. As it happens in ‘Only God forgives’, the main story is not that important, nor is it something new. What is relevant is how he tells it and what he achieves with it. NWR turns this religious journey into something much more complex and profound than meets the eye. It brings together two religions as disparate as the Christian and the Viking, making them coexist for practically the entire footage. From here certain dilemmas come, such as the loss of faith, blind faith, the true and false messiahs or what is our destiny, which it explores in a different way than usual, with a treatment that makes you reflect and leaves you thoughtful once it ends. . Play a lot with symbols, not so much with judging what is correct and what is not. It is not dedicated to judging. In a society like the one we are presented with, ethics does not exist, survival overrides it. The film is sometimes pretentious and gives the feeling that it recreates itself too much to tell something so simple, and that is the biggest fault I can get out of it.
With all these peculiarities, the cast had a difficult job, it must not be easy to work on such an abstract film with so many silences. The scenes take place in a confined space most of the time and are not particularly long dialogue scenes. Rolling without having a clue what you’re doing or what shape it’s going to take must be chaotic. With all that against them, they all do their job very well, bringing that touch of madness, anxiety, nervousness and other negative states to the unhealthy setting of the film. Nothing is surprising in my words when I say that Mads Mikkelsen stands out above the rest, both for her great presence in front of the camera and for that strange quality she has, which consists of expressing different emotions or decisions without hardly moving a muscle on her face. .
‘Valhalla Rising’ is a Nicolas Windign Refn film, with all the lyrics. It is very much worth seeing, at least once. You may be excited, or you may not. But it will be haunting your mind forever. A different proposal, whose viewing has marked and stimulated me much more than other feature films that are more accommodating to the viewer.