When it comes to Robert Eggers, you either love his films or you don’t but he’s outdone himself with the new Viking film, The Northman.
You might think you’ve seen a Viking film but you’ve never seen anything like The Northman. Robert Eggers has a way with cinematic language unlike any other filmmaker working today. The nonstop action films coming from the likes of Marvel and Lucasfilm might be spoiling us but this one is different. Believe me! I’m not saying it’s the best picture of the year but it would not surprise me if it is in the conversation. Of course, who knows what things will be like come November. April certainly isn’t too early of a release date but you never know.
It was a very different world when The Lighthouse came into existence. Even for those fans of The Green Knight, The Northman is far superior in every way. If you’re not familiar with Norse mythology, some terminology might go over your head. If the studio plays its cards right, we’ll be talking about the production design during awards season. The production and costume designs go above and beyond. You might never see accuracy like this again.
Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak/Alexander Skarsgård) should be the heir to the throne but his father (Ethan Hawke) was murdered by his uncle (Claes Bang). Making matters worse is that his uncle goes as far as kidnapping his mother (Nicole Kidman). The young prince flees by boat but vows to have his vengeance. It takes the better part of two decades but Amleth is closer to honoring his vow: avenge his father, save his mother, and kill his uncle. But in order to make this happen, he leaves his Viking crew and embeds himself on a slave slip traveling to Iceland. It’s probably not the wisest idea in the world but Amleth is on his own journey. One that now includes an enslaved woman, Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy).
The film opens during the middle of the Viking Age. Hrafnsey, a fictional kingdom ruled by King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke), is the main location during the prologue. Amleth is among the Vikings raiding a Slav village in the Land of the Rus (modern day Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine) before embedding himself on a slave ship heading to Iceland, where Fjölnir (Claes Bang) has fled with Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman).
We’ve seen the basic gist of the story before. It’s a family revenge story but what Eggers and company does that elevates it to a higher level. Hamlet and The Lion King ring a bell? The Scandinavian legend of Amleth is a direct influence on William Shakespeare’s Hamlet–the more you know! In any event, the filmmakers also incorporate Icelandic sagas and Norse myths into the film. The film is still set in the 10th century but is more of an original story. Fantasy also plays a role but your mileage may vary.
Behind the camera, Eggers reteams with cinematographer Jarin Blaschke. This time around, they take the single-camera approach. If you’re a longtime reader of Solzy at the Movies, Blaschke lensed one of my favorite short films in 2018, Souls of Totality. If you haven’t seen it yet, please fit some time in your schedule! But anyway, his camerawork takes advantage all the natural light that Northern Ireland–doubling for Iceland–has to offer.
The Northman is a cinematic experience that could only come from Robert Eggers.
DIRECTOR: Robert Eggers
SCREENWRITER: Sjón, Robert Eggers
CAST: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, with Ethan Hawke, Björk, and Willem Dafoe
Focus Features will release The Northman in theaters on April 22, 2022. Grade: 4/5
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