Valhalla Rising (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2009)

The tectonic pace; the cryptically sparse undialogue that hints at collisions between nature and religion, and collusions between religion and civilization; the gorgeous sound design that (literally) amps up every zephyr of wind over the crags, every creak of wood in the forests, every tide lapping on the shores; and the eye-wateringly sumptuous photography mark this as a metaphysical road film, one Werner Malick might have spent decades preparing. The one-eyed, mute, seemingly-invincible, rune-bedecked misunderstood protagonist with a topknot, a tow-headed companion, and a mighty hatchet that leaves some sad-looking CGI bloodsquirts in its wake indicate the genre of the Spaghetti Viking samurai film, one Sergio Kurosawa might flawlessly direct. When put together in this film, all these conventions make kind of a mess. But it’s a mess that’s well worth sorting through.

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