“Valhalla Rising is a sci-fi movie. It’s about traveling into outer space beyond the stars. It’s like an acid trip. It’s almost like a post-apocalyptic future.”

Some people might be very surprised by this quote from director Nicolas Winding Refn. Traditionally, science fiction of course usually plays out somewhere in the future in faraway galaxies where advanced technologies and odd alien races reign. Valhalla Rising, on the other hand, takes place in medieval Europe, with nary a laser beam or alien in sight, and all of the action involves Vikings and weapons made from wood and worked stone and metal. The filmmaker was referring to sci-fi, but without the usual technological trappings. As a result, viewers are treated to a monolith as protagonist (yes indeed, Refn explicitly acknowledges that his movie owes a debt to 2001: A Space Odyssey); it is a being without a past that experiences the four stages of human life: slave, warrior, god and human being.

Above all, Valhalla Rising is an utterly original Viking trip filled with fanaticism, sacrifice, war, religion and imperialism. The perfectly framed scenes of extraordinary landscapes and meditative moments have an extraordinarily hypnotic effect. And even though dialogue is extremely rare in this film, Mads Mikkelsen easily conjures up the tantalising tale of One-Eye, an indomitable slave. If you ask me, there is no better movie to herald in the summer break.