I’m just so sick of talking about ‘Drive.’ You’re always happy with the success. But I’ve talked about this movie extensively for more than a year, so that’s it. I don’t know what else I can add at this point - Nicolas Winding Refn
Years before Nicolas Winding Refn had Ryan Gosling and Albert Brooks stomping and stabbing people at the drop of a hat in 'Drive' (a movie I love and talk about very much here on PINNLAND EMPIRE and will continue to do so in this blog entry), he had already created some really violent and interesting characters as well as some of the most brutally violent scenes on film in the last couple of years. Between "One-Eye" (the main character in 'Valhalla Rising') and Charlie Bronson ('Bronson') you could actually find elements of "The Driver" (Gosling) in both of those earlier characters. One-Eye and The Driver barely speak (One-Eye doesn't speak at all actually), both have a kind of compassion for children and all three characters (Bronson, One-Eye and The Driver) have an uncontrollable violent side. Refn makes up the kinda characters that'll have you wondering who'd win in a fight if they squared off against each other.
VIOLENCE IN VALHALLA RISING:
THE HAUNTING ATMOSPHERE OF VALHALLA RISING:
With Valhalla the specific atmosphere comes from all the shots of the sky (reminiscent of Michael Mann's sky shots in Miami Vice and Ali), the fog, clouds, mountains and the Scottish landscapes where the film was shot. Subconsciously you're reminded of everything from Malick's 'The New World' (especially with the presence of the Native Americans at the end of the film) to the opening shot in 'The Shining' (Jack Nicholson driving through the foggy hills on his way to the overlook hotel). Its nice to know that a young-ish director that's commonly associated with the independent/art-house scene isn't afraid to make a film like 'Valhalla Rising'. I almost get the sense that Refn felt this could compete with studio films in the vein of '300' or 'Gladiator' but on a smaller scale. Some may be turned off by the middle part of Valhalla as it does dabble in religious symbolism and becomes VERY dreamlike. Its an acquired taste but if you're a fan of the film's influences that I mentioned earlier (Tarkovsky, Herzog, Von Trier, etc) chances are you'll enjoy this.
And on a side note, I'm at the point where I'll watch just about anything with Mads Mikkelsen in it...
ANGER, VIOLENCE & AGGRESSION IN BRONSON:
Also this film not only brought Tom Hardy to international fame, but it quickly became a new-age cult hit and got Nicolas Refn more exposure. He went from being nearly bankrupt (thanks to 'Fear X') and having to make two more 'Pusher' films that he really didn't wanna do, to becoming a minor crossover director with 'Bronson'. Had 'Bronson' not been made then he may not have had the opportunity to make 'Drive'. I'm happy that a director like Nicolas Refn with his kinda style is slowly making the transition in to the mainstream. In my opinion his work isn't meant to be seen on small art house screens like the film forum or cinema village (no offense). I guess you could look at Valhalla and Bronson as his early attempts at "mainstream" movie making which eventually turned in to a success with 'Drive'. I don't love 'Bronson' but I respect it.