Favourable French reviews are not uncommon to Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn. His "Pusher" trilogy as well as the more recent "Bronson" were accorded a warm reception at their release in France.
Now Refn's latest film "Valhalla Rising" has caught the interest of the French critics, praising it as a spectacular, hallucinating tour de force and Refn's best in years.
"Le Guerrier silencieux", the silent warrior, is the title on the French posters, a title that points to the film's main character and Refn's preferred outsider hero. Shot in the majestic Glen Affric Mountains in the Scottish highlands, the film tells the story of One-Eye, played by Mads Mikkelsen, a mute warrior of supernatural strength who escapes captivity and embarks on a Christian crusader vessel bound for uncharted territory.
Reinventing the Viking genre
In the March edition of the film magazine Positif, "Valhalla Rising" is compared to Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi masterpiece from 1968:
"'Valhalla Rising' is a shock, an extraordinary film. Without exaggerating, one could say that what 'A Space Odyssey' did for science fiction, Refn does the same for the viking film (”¦). He reinvents the genre, turning the film into af psychedelic trip and a metaphysical adventure."
Along the same lines, Premiere acknowledges Refn's highly personal rethinking of a classical genre: "Refn tears down the trappings of mythological narratives such as Conan the Barbarian in order to create an investigation into the existential."
A mind driven wild
The French Rolling Stone calls the film "a haunting nightmare whose visual style and brutality is both entrancing and startling", and Cahiers du Cinema emphasises Refn's ability to tie aesthetics and narrative into an epic entity:
"Refn succeeds in embodying an era when ideas were vague, a place between superstition and religion, barbaric impulses and a mind driven wild."
Premiered in Venice
"Valhalla Rising", Refn's seventh feature film, attracted positive attention at the festivals in Toronto and Venice and was recently honoured with a Special Mention at Fantasporto in Portugal.
Danish release 31 March.
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