Valhalla Rising: I learned a very valuable lesson from VALHALLA RISING; never take your friends to see an art house film, even if said art house film involves a good deal of viking violence. They won’t enjoy it, and their obvious non-enjoyment is going to keep knocking you out of the film as well.

VALHALLA RISING is perhaps the most metal film I’ve ever seen; brutal, vicious, desolate and strangely powerful. I’m not really sure I can recommend it, but if you’re up for a curiously-paced exploration of inhumanity, faith and delirium, this would be a good place to start. The first 30 minutes play like a Hong Kong action film, loaded up with ugly yet compelling combat sequences; the last hour is a surrealist descent into increasing chaos and solitude, like watching a group of people slowly starve to death in the woods. Only with more axe fights and mud baths. The film is soaked in an unrelenting bleakness, from the characters and plot to the cinematography itself, a monochromatic palette that strips forest and ocean down to a stark, sad beauty.

Don’t let the trailer fool you, by the way, as to the amount of narrative explanation the film provides – about a third of the dialogue in the film is in the trailer, and the closer the film moves towards the climax, the less vocal everyone becomes, leaving the audience to puzzle out scenes and motivations on their own.

THE WAITING CITY: My viewing of this film was no doubt influenced by the terrible mood I was in the day I saw it, but it managed to strike all the wrong notes with me. The basics: uptight professional woman and her laid-back musician husband travel to India to complete a long-planned adoption; delays happen and their relationship starts to strain as a result. There really wasn’t much here that struck me as new or fresh; not the unraveling plot, not the oh-so-typical characters, not the “attractive white people exploring an exotic culture” motif. It’s competent enough, and probably worth watching if you have an interest in international adoption or India, but nothing groundbreaking.