John’s (Josh Hartnett) life is crumbling. His wife has left him, his job in the advertising world is against him, and his therapist’s tip to walk back through town blindfolded has not brought relief either. So he drives his dark red pickup truck to the Valley of the Gods in Utah, pulls a desk out of his trunk, and starts working on the book he’s always wanted to write.
The subject of that book should be the wealthy and enigmatic Wes Tauros (John Malkovich), who wants to extract uranium from the ground in the valley. It is divisive among the Navajo Indians still living there, for whom the valley is not just any piece of land, but the residence of their gods.
Majewski emphasizes the souls that the landscape harbors with sandstone rock formations that seem to bear faces and a baby as heavy as stone, meandering its umbilical cord into the mountains. In contrast, the world of Tauros is full of soulless relics. A royal Rolls-Royce is fired from a meter-high catapult and an aria is sung in a replica of the Trevi Fountain. In a macabre sculpture garden, Tauros’ loved ones are immortalized in stone.
If you like the incomparable Valley of the Gods then still want to compare with something, titles like Wim Wenders’ Til the end of the world, Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales in Cloud Atlas of the Wachowski sisters in mind. Films that gloriously stumble over their ambitions, that frustrate and fascinate in equal parts.
Films that even seem to escape the grasp of their makers. Valley of the Gods is a jumble of half-developed storylines, where it is as if Majewski with the characters and the spectator gets lost in the universe of Tauros. It never becomes completely clear how it relates to the reality outside. Or until the time.
Valley of the Gods is a clash between an old and a new world, between two opposing views of our relationship to the earth. The film is at the same time a commentary on the perversion of wealth, of billionaires wallowing in empty decadence, and the people who give themselves up to the vagaries of those rich.
And above all, it is an attempt to capture the sublime. An attempt that shatters, as any attempt at it is doomed to shatter, but the splinters are astonishing.
Valley of the Gods
Director Lech Majewski
Met Josh Hartnett, John Malkovich, Berenice Marlohe
Can be seen in Movie halls, Rialto