Lech Majewski is a director whose trademark is deeply metaphorical films full of symbols. "Valley of the Gods" is the same production - is it worth deciphering this symbolism this time?
Valley of the Gods is definitely not a movie for everyone. Majewski considers the works of Spielberg and Lucas to be the greatest crime against film art, which, in his opinion, reduced it to entertainment for children. So if you are looking for a lot of fun in the cinema, you can go ahead and skip the Valley of the gods right away.
Banals in gold
The plot is made up of three separate stories, which intertwine with each other in different ways during the film. After a painful divorce from his wife, John quits his job as a copywriter and looks for inspiration in nature. In the desert steppe, he encounters the Navajo people protesting against the purchase of their land by the Wes Tauros corporation, surrounded by the luxuries of a rich man, unable to come to terms with the tragic death of his family.
The structure of the film itself is confusing, there is no clear plot line on which the viewer would slide freely from start to finish. The events presented on the screen are more symbolic than fictional. One would like to say, however, that it is light, as there is not much hidden under the surface of these numerous references.
The symbolism itself in the Valley of the Gods can be interesting, but it serves to convey painfully banal content. The very presentation of reality in the opposing categories of culture and nature is quite naive and out of date. The former director is personified with bloodthirsty corporations, Marvel films and smartphones, and the latter with Navajo living in harmony. Majewski demonizes culture and romanticizes nature, thus reducing the plot of his film to such hated entertainment cinema, which is often based on such black and white divisions.
Indians from Krupówki
The valley of the gods is also unpleasantly surprising with the way the indigenous people are depicted. On the one hand, the director suggests that this terrible civilization has already reached them, as heralded by the Pepsi and Dr. Pepper, but on the other hand, it refers to typical stereotypes, emphasizing the special relationship of the Navajo people with nature or shamanism. One can understand the desire to refer to a certain archetype, but such an image of the Indians fits Krupówki more than a film by a respected director. The way Majewski guides the actors may also be controversial. The interactions between the characters are very artificial, they give the impression of a staging. As much as I like over-expressive actors in Żuławski’s films (who are hard to accuse of being natural), the so-influenced style of Majewski’s character irritated me exceptionally.
However, the Valley of the Gods cannot be denied a spectacular setting. Long and moving photos of canyons and steppes or the sumptuous Taurus Palace are eye-catching. The soundtrack composed by Jan A. Kaczmarek also does not disappoint, but I find controversial radio songs that one of the main characters listens to while driving a car. Taken completely seriously, without a single blink of an eye, they do not feel well at arthouse cinema .
The valley of the gods disappoints primarily because it promises a lot and offers very little. Formally tasteful, it irritates with simple dichotomies and banal diagnoses. Majewski claims that it is a film about the loss of loved ones. In my opinion, this thread is definitely in the background, and the first violin is played by unsuccessful social commentaries.
Following Umberto Eco’s thought, people can be divided into apocalyptic and adapted. Majewski certainly belongs to the former type. If, for the director, the riders of the apocalypse are Spider-Man and the Iphone, then he can only be envied by such a privileged perspective.
In turn, the DVD edition of the film deserves praise, in which we can find interesting comments from the filmmakers, explaining their cooperation on the set and the entire creative process. The set also includes Majewski’s book – The Hidden Language of Symbols , which in an accessible and interesting way helps to understand the symbolism in the director’s films and more. In addition, we get an English version, with a Polish teacher or subtitles. You will be able to watch the whole thing with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.