“From visionary director Robert Eggers comes The Northman, an action-filled epic that follows a young Viking prince on his quest to avenge his father’s murder.” Director: Robert EggersWriters: Sjón, Robert […]
“From visionary director Robert Eggers comes The Northman, an action-filled epic that follows a young Viking prince on his quest to avenge his father’s murder.”
Director: Robert Eggers
Writers: Sjón, Robert Eggers
Staring: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy
Release Date: April 22, 2022
Only needed 10 minutes of this movie to know it is exactly up the Stanko alley. It is an artistic bloody revenge tail that involves a bit of fate/destiny. The Northman takes a Shakespearean style story, applies just enough twists and turns to keep it above water, and then adds visual splendor as its propulsion. Putting it plainly, Robert Eggers doesn’t miss.
There are going to be spoilers throughout this post. So be forewarned.
The Northman is a simple story at its heart. Prince Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) is growing up under the eyes of his father King Aurvandill War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) and Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman). His youthful bliss is shattered when he sees his father murdered by his brother, Fjölnir The Brotherless (Claes Bang). Amleth escapes, vowing “I will avenge you, Father! I will save you, Mother! I will kill you, Fjölnir!”
Amleth, now grown and hardened by life, has his past comes back to him, forcing certain steps that fate has dictated. He returns to the land of Fjölnir The Brotherless as a slave with Olga Of The Birch Of Forest (Anya Taylor-Joy). The two develop a relationship, but Amleth is still dedicated to avenging his father and getting his deserved vengeance. In the end he confronts his mother and killer of his father, and the only question is what his quest for revenge is going to cost him.
Does fate handcuff him? Does his destiny sway his desire? Can the life in front of you cloud the life that has been foretold? Amleth answers all these questions with the blunt force trauma.
There are a handful of moments in The Northman that stick out visually. The first of which is our introduction to Amleth, the soulless. This is Amleth grown up, hardened into black crystal and sharper than a recently treated steak knife. There is an extended take of Amleth and the viking horde he is a part off just RUTHLESSLY tearing apart a small community. Amleth starts it off catching a spear than hucking back at the though-to-be-safe settlers and ends it dodging and arrow at close range. Just a master at dodging the projectiles…a skill his father did not have.
A second masterstroke from Eggers and cinematographer Jarin Blaschke is not a battle sequence. No. It is rather a game; the Viking version of rugby, cricket, and soccer? Whatever game it is, it is violent. I love this scene in The Northman is because it illustrates the violent tendency of the people even when they do not have weapons in their hands. Rather, it is whatever is in their hand is a weapon. This scene in the movie jolts you with its violence, and then cranks it up with story stakes when Queen Gudrún and Fjölnir The Brotherless’ son gets himself involved.
The Northman excels in its visual splendor, but there are story moments that deserve recognition.
The most surprising scene in the movie comes when Amleth reunites with Queen Gudrún. The lost son is returning home to save his mother from the man who raptured her old life. Well, it turns out that Queen Gudrún didn’t give a damn about Amleth’s father, King Aurvandil War-Raven. She helped orchestrate the entire coup.
This scene fucking rocks for various reasons:
- Nicole Kidman is a fucking great actress.
- Amleth is proven to be vulnerable; he may be built like a Greek god but he is not invincible to pain.
- Words are mightier than the sword. Nothing can hurt a kid more than a parent’s thrashing. And this is a torture sequence for Amleth.
- This scene is the most relatable of any in sequence in the movie: when a kid learns that their parents are indeed human as well. They make mistakes and choices you don’t agree with, and you have to choose how to deal with it.
Queen Gudrún does not hold back. The way she illuminates the truth about King Aurvandil to Amleth is like a slow crescendo, building up to the final lashing and glass shattering truth. This scene is also the best acting by Skarsgård in the movie. For the majority of The Northman his job is to act intense and never smile. Amleth is for sure not bearing his teeth in joy during this scene, but he is gritting them with furious anger and frustration as his mother educates him on the reality of the situation.
Robert Eggers only makes good movies. His three major motion pictures have all been critically praised, and I loved them all as well.
- The Northman (2022): B+
- The Lighthouse (2019): B+
- The Witch (2016): A-
I need to make an effort to see his short films: Hansel & Gretel (2007), The Tell-Tale Heart (2008) and Brothers (2015). Eggers has been trying to get a remake or reimagining of the 1922 silent film classic Nosferatu on the ground, but it has stalled on numerous occasions. With Eggers love for the dark, eerie, dreary often black-and-white esthetic, I would pay GOBS of money to see what his take on that vampiric story would be like.
*BREAKING NEWS. ALL OF HIS SHORT FILMS ARE ON YOUTUBE. WHOOP WHOOP*
Robert Eggers does not delineate from what he wants. That is why I gravitate to him so easily. He has a vision, and the balls to pull it off. Since he has gotten the big budgets, he has not compromised his dark and dreary style. There is not a lot of optimism in his movies, that is perfectly fine by me. Eggers asks the audience to bend to his will as the director, and if you don’t follow his path then you are walking straight off the plank.
Before we end, I have to praise to make-up department. Managing all the blood, mud and grime on all the actors and costumes can not be an easy task. Continuity has to be a bitch with that stuff.
Do I have some nitpicks about The Northman? Yea, I do. The Northman is not perfect, perfect.
I think the ending suffered maybe a smidge from the superhero movie problem where the finale is a bit too grandiose for what the movie was leading up to it. The mono-et-mono battle between Amleth and Fjölnir in a volcano with lava flowing at the fiery gates of hel is visually beautiful, but also increasingly over-the-top. I totally understand how The Northman has norse god-like visual splendors, so in terms of the visual themes it makes sense. Perhaps I wish the Gates Of Hel was more of a symbolic place, rather than a viking version of Hades palace.
My biggest regret about The Northman is that I did not get to see it in theaters. I tried to, but there just was not enough time. I strongly encourage taking time out of your weekend or evening and turning on Peacock to watch The Northman in all its violent, gory, goodness. The Northman is a Shakespearean epic set in an era that not many people visit. Eggers doesn’t flinch in what he wants and what he puts out. The Northman is a muddy vision of bloody madness.
STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)
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