Valhalla Rising (film)

Valhalla Rising is a 2009 English-language Danish adventure drama film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, co-written by Refn and Roy Jacobsen, and starring Mads Mikkelsen. The film takes place around the year 1096 AD and follows a Norse warrior named One-Eye and a boy as they travel with a band of Christian Crusaders by ship in the hopes of finding the Holy Land. Instead, they find themselves in an unknown land (actually North America) where they are assailed by unseen forces and dark visions.

Valhalla Rising
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNicolas Winding Refn
Produced by
  • Johnny Andersen
  • Bo Ehrhardt
  • Henrik Danstrup
Written by
  • Nicolas Winding Refn
  • Roy Jacobsen
Music by
CinematographyMorten Søborg
Edited byMat Newman
Nimbus Film Productions
Distributed byScanbox Entertainment
Release date
  • 4 September 2009 (2009-09-04) (Venice)
  • 31 March 2010 (2010-03-31) (Denmark)
Running time
92 minutes[1]
Budget$5.7 million
Box office$276,694

Shot entirely in Scotland,[2] the title is derived from the combination of Kenneth Anger's films Scorpio Rising and Lucifer Rising with a Viking theme.[3] While the film garnered generally positive reviews, it only made back a fraction – about $277,000 – of its $5.7 million production cost.


Somewhere in the Scottish Highlands, a mysterious mute thrall with one eye is held captive by a Norwegian chieftain from Sutherland and forced to fight to the death against others. During his imprisonment, the man is brought his meals by a young thrall boy, who seems to sympathise with him. After dreaming of finding an arrowhead in pool, the vision comes true when he is bathed. Using the arrow, the man manages to break free, killing the chieftain and his entourage and impaling the chieftain's head on a nithing pole. As he sets out across the land on foot, the man soon realizes that the boy is following him.

They reach a small group of Christian Norsemen who are persecuting the heathens of Scandinavian Scotland. The leader of the group asks the boy about the man's origins and he, dubbing the man as 'One-Eye', tells that he came from Hel. 'One-Eye' and the boy agree to sail with them to the Holy Land on a Crusade. The expedition encounters thick fog not long after setting sail and gets hopelessly lost in the North Atlantic. After many days, with supplies dwindling, land is sighted.

Sailing up a river, they are attacked by skraelings who use stone arrowheads. The party realises that they are nowhere near the Holy Land. Their leader nevertheless contemplates attempting to conquer the locals and claim the land, while 'One-Eye' has a vision of him trying to build a cairn. Some of the group members begin to angrily blame 'One-Eye' for their predicament, and he kills them in self-defence. 'One-Eye' and the boy then leave and walk into the forest, followed by the group's second in command who has been stabbed by the leader for choosing to follow them. The leader's son then arrives to follow, as the leader stays behind to be killed by arrows. As the remainder of the group reaches the peak of a mountain, the son asks 'One-Eye' to tell him why he had to go through the horrible journey, but 'One-Eye' remains ever silent. The leader's son decides to go back so as not to leave his father, and the second in command is left to presumably die on the mountain. The fate of these two men is left unknown.

'One-Eye' and the boy eventually reach the coastline and are soon met by over a dozen clay-covered warriors. 'One-Eye' regards them knowingly, as he has already foreseen this event in a vision. He puts his hand on the boy's arm, then walks into the middle of the tribesmen. He drops his axe and his knife and closes his eye. One of the warriors, understanding what he wants them to do, fells him with one blow to the back of the head, before the other warriors finish him off. 'One-Eye's' spirit walks into the estuary next to his cairn and disappears below the surface. On the beach, the remaining tribe members quietly withdraw back into the forest, leaving the boy looking out at the ocean. The sky grows dark and 'One-Eye's' face appears in the clouds.


Nicolas Winding Refn deliberately did not give formal names to the film's characters, save for One-Eye, although it is not the character's real name but a moniker given by The Boy. Names were assigned in the script to differentiate parts. This article addresses the characters as they are addressed by Refn on the DVD-commentary.


The film premiered at the 66th Venice International Film Festival where it was shown out of competition on 4 September 2009. The Danish premiere followed on 31 March 2010. Vertigo Films released it in the United Kingdom on 30 April the same year.


Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, gives the film a score of 71% based on reviews from 55 critics.[4] Metacritic gives the film a "generally favorable" average score of 61% based on reviews from 15 critics.[5]

The reaction from Danish critics was split. Berlingske Tidende gave the film a rating of two out of six and called it "unbearably self-important".[6] B.T., on the other hand called it a masterpiece and handed out a perfect score of six out of six.[7]


The score of the film was composed by Refn's frequent collaborators Peter Peter and Peter Kyed. Originally Refn had intended Mogwai as the composers of the score. The soundtrack was commercially released on 7 October 2013 by Milan Records who also released the score to Refn's films Only God Forgives and The Neon Demon. The soundtrack contains the complete score and sections of the soundscapes sound designers Giles Lamb and Douglas MacDougall created for the film.[8][9]

Track listing
  1. "Introduction" - Peter Peter & Peter Kyed (1:03)
  2. "Caged" - Giles Lamb & Douglas MacDougall (1:41)
  3. "One Eye Fights" - Giles Lamb & Douglas MacDougall (0:53)
  4. "Montage" - Peter Peter & Peter Kyed (4:22)
  5. "Arrowhead" - Giles Lamb & Douglas MacDougall (4:19)
  6. "Escape" - Peter Peter & Peter Kyed (1:02)
  7. "Return" - Peter Peter & Peter Kyed (3:03)
  8. "Free" - Peter Peter (1:56)
  9. "Christians" - Giles Lamb & Douglas MacDougall (4:03)
  10. "Men of God" - Peter Kyed & Peter Peter (4:49)
  11. "The Boat" - Peter Peter & Peter Kyed (12:02)
  12. "Into Hell" - Peter Peter & Peter Kyed (3:40)
  13. "Hell" - Peter Peter & Peter Kyed (9:34)
  14. "Forest'" - Giles Lamb & Douglas MacDougall (2:14)
  15. "Valhalla Rising (End Credits)" - Peter Peter & Peter Kyed (5:33)


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