Monday, October 22, 2007

The 13th Warrior [Lai Lai Hei]

Such a fun movie. One of my guilty pleasures. If you haven't seen this one, try renting it for Halloween.

I have a thing for Dennis Storhoi. (sigh) Herger the joyous, indeed.

Part of the fun of this movie is watching this wonderful mix of Scandinavian, Celtic, Czechoslovakian, Spanish, Middle Eastern, and European actors.

Points for those who can spot all the historical inaccuracies without referring to the Wikipedia entry, first.

This is, of course, the story of Beowulf. Here is a review by FlickFilospher. Excerpt:

The 13th Warrior will likely not appeal to the typical action movie lover because it does require more thought than the typical action movie. And for all its blood and violence -- this is a gruesome and intense film -- much that is creepy and thrilling can be found in its quieter sections, if the viewer isn't just waiting for the next battle. A sun-dappled forest, its pine branches dripping icicles, becomes beautifully mystical and mysterious -- and threatening -- as the warriors examine the scene of a recent attack. The Viking villagers dread the "fireworm" -- "a dragon?" Ibn Fahdlan wonders -- and when we finally see this beast snake silently down from the mountain near the village, we share the villagers' awe and horror.

For a story that's told with minimal dialogue, there's a surprising depth to the characters and their interactions. The 13th Warrior is a story of culture clash: the refined, sophisticated, cosmopolitan Arab thrown in with a band of crude, coarse barbarians, or so Ibn Fahdlan sees them. (Banderas is especially effective early on, when he conveys his disdain and disgust with the Vikings' behavior with a quick wave of his hand or a shake of his head.) And yet it's the one area that's usually most divisive between cultures -- religion -- that finally signals Ibn Fahdlan's acceptance of his Viking comrades, when he joins in on a prayer with the Viking warriors just before a battle that will speed the dead to Valhalla. And I especially loved the almost wordless relationship Ibn Fahdlan develops with one of the Viking women -- he and she clasp hands here, exchange a glance there to create a more genuine connection that you'll see in most supposedly "romantic" movies.

What else is there to love? How about the first serious depiction of Vikings in a Hollywood film? (With a name like Johanson and a lot of ethnic pride, I'm delighted by this.) How about the first Hollywood depiction of a Moslem hero? How about the brutally gorgeous battle sequences lit only by torchlight?

They lost points with me for using a headless version of the Venus of Willendorf as a symbol of evil. Oh, well.

Have fun,


Note: The music on the Youtube fan video is by the band Ensiferum, and is not used in the movie. The movie score - which is very popular with fans - is by Jerry Goldsmith.

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