THE NORTHMAN (15)
THE NORTHMAN (15)
Director: Robert Eggers
Runtime: 136 minutes 43 seconds
Cast: Aleksander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Gustav Lindh, Ethan Hawke, Björk, Willem Dafoe, Kate Dickie, Ralph Ineson
Synopsis: Young Prince Amleth is on the cusp of becoming a man when his father is brutally murdered by his uncle, who kidnaps the boy’s mother. Fleeing his island kingdom by boat, the child vows revenge. Two decades later, Amleth is a Viking berserker raiding Slavic villages, where a seeress reminds him of his vow: avenge his father, save his mother, kill his uncle. Traveling on a slave ship to Iceland, Amleth infiltrates his uncle’s farm with the help of Olga, an enslaved Slavic woman — and sets out to honour his vow.
From visionary writer-director Robert Eggers [The Witch (2015), The Lighthouse (2019)] comes an immersive Viking epic like no other featuring an ensemble cast including Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Björk.
The Northman re-imagines the Norse myths, Icelandic sagas and Viking legends from a distant era through Eggers’ signature focus on craftsmanship and authentic detail.
He co-wrote the film’s screenplay with Icelandic poet, novelist, lyricist and screenwriter Sjón [Lamb (2021), Dancer in the Dark (2000)], using his inimitable emphasis on atmosphere and design to elevate the Viking epic to bold new heights.
This bloody revenge epic and breath-taking visual marvel is a fresh take on an ancient story which is said to have inspired Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The Northman finds filmmaker Robert Eggers expanding his breadth of vision without sacrificing any elements of his signature style, meticulous research and elements of the occult and supernatural.
Robert Eggers has commented: “I got thinking about Vikings, and learning what really had existed in the first decades of tenth century Scandinavia and at the same time being alert to the reinterpretations and inaccurate elements that had been projected onto the Viking culture in the millennia that followed. I found a full and complex civilization of beautiful art, cultural and religious fusion, advanced technology, elaborate customs, and codes of honour and justice. But it was also a culture of extreme violence and subjugation, and one where horrific cycles of revenge knew no end. Humankind, it seems, never changes. Maybe that’s why I am drawn to the past. It is a dark and distant mirror.”
The film centres on Amleth (Oscar Novak), a young prince living in a prosperous kingdom in the North Atlantic close to the Orkney Islands, ruled by his father King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke) and his mother Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman). Returning from a journey, the King subjects Amleth to an initiation ritual solidifying his position in the family so he can take over the kingdom when his father dies.
After the ceremony, Aurvandil is murdered in front of Prince Amleth by his own uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang). Fleeing the bloodbath, the 10-year-old boy escapes the island in a rowboat, vowing to avenge his father and save his mother, now in the clutches of Fjölnir.
Twenty years pass. Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård), now hardened with rage, is part of a band of Viking berserkers from Sweden making raids up and down the rivers of Eastern Europe.
As the rowdy berserkers drunkenly celebrate their plunder, Amleth meets a seeress (Björk) who reminds him of his fate and mission. Newly invigorated, he learns that Fjölnir is running a farm in Iceland. Disguised as a slave, Amleth leaves with other Slavs bound for Iceland, among them, Olga of the Birch Forest (Anya Taylor-Joy), with whom he forms a bond.
She tells him: “Your strength may break men’s bones, but I have the cunning to break their minds,” and the two eventually grow closer.
Supernatural qualities and the physical and spiritual realms in Norse culture are depicted in detailed imagery. Valhalla appears to Amleth throughout, and his quest to find a mythical blade means at one point he goes underground and the boundaries between life and the afterlife are blurred. The primordial landscapes and elements – volcanic; the wind, mud, rain, snow, dirt, ice, ash, and fire – that create the atmosphere, magic and myth are stunningly captured by cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, who worked with Robert Eggers on both The Witch and The Lighthouse in striking, unforgettable imagery.
The Northman is an extremely brutal, grim and bloody fatalistic revenge epic about a time when people were enslaved and it was difficult to stay alive. The film is cruel and obsessive and packed with psychological meaning and drama about betrayal and revenge.
Images courtesy of: Universal Pictures