The first twenty minutes of Nicolas Winding Refn's Valhalla Rising are silent but for a few terse conversations between vikings and the breaking of bones and slashing of throats. Mads Mikkelsen delivers a feral performance as the one-eyed gladiator slave who provides the more grisly sound effects. It is the year 1000 A.D., and he is a caged man in England's Danelaw, a fighter who is sold back and forth among the local viking lords as a treasured, very dangerous, commodity. Manufacturing his escape the only way he knows how -- with utter violence -- he takes only the young boy who fed him through the bars and heads for the sea. What's supposed to be a journey to the Holy Land ends up delivering the odd pair to the New World. Powerful in its stillness and grandeur, Refn's film features gorgeous cinematography and a dark beauty. Valhalla Rising screens as part of the Saint Louis International Film Festival at 9:15 p.m. at the Hi-Pointe Theatre (1005 McCausland Avenue; www.cinemastlouis.org). Tickets are $10-$12.
Sun., Nov. 14, 2010