The Northman Review – A Revenge Tale of Nordic Proportions

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Robert Eggers has quickly become one of the most sought after names in the film world. With his back to back successes of The Witch and The Lighthouse, Eggers takes a big step forward and tackles his first studio film, The Northman. What was surely a daunting task, Eggers has crafted his largest film yet and continues to prove his talents as both writer and director.

This time teaming up with Sjón to pen the script, Eggers also brings along longtime collaborator Jarin Blaschke as cinematographer to breathe life into The Northman and usher it onto the big screen. A visionary tale, the film tells the epic tale of a young Viking prince in Amleth, portrayed by Alexander Skarsgård, on his quest to avenge his father’s murder.

While The Northman is Eggers most accessible film yet, it still feels like an ‘Eggers film’, but this time turned up to one hundred. With vast Icelandic landscapes, brutal action set pieces, a bone rattling score and beautiful cinematography, the film is an all encompassing adventure from frame one. Using all of the tools at his disposal, Eggers has created a rich and dense world filled with so much lore, it’s hard to think of anything else while watching. 

Written in a traditional, yet clear language, audiences are immediately swept into this world. Along with the gorgeous production design in the intricate sets and the natural lighting of Blaschke’s cinematography, Eggers floats the audience through this journey alongside Amleth and takes hold of the senses until films end. In doing so, Eggers is able to tell a powerful story of revenge, morality and the burden experienced at the hands of prophecy and promise.

All of this is told through the gaze of Skarsgård’s Amleth. Meeting a cast of strangers on his journey, including Anya Taylor-Joy’s Olga of the Birch Forest, Amleth is given life by Skarsgård in a career high performance. Showcasing a wide range of emotion and physicality, from his hunch of metaphoric weight upon his shoulders to the agony held in his eyes throughout the entire film, Skarsgård breathes so much life into this character and is the vessel that carries the audience through the story. Alongside him are plenty of other great performances, from the likes of Nicole Kidman and Queen Gudrún to Claes Bang as Fjölnir, the cast is incredible across the board. The standout of supporting characters is, of course, Anya Taylor-Joy as Olga. Bringing a further layer to the story, Olga is introduced as a muse of sorts to Amleth and helps drive his thirst for revenge. However Olga also brings a sense of humanity to Amleth and shows that there is a heart inside the brutal Viking.

Through terrific direction, Eggers is able to balance this humanity and brutality extremely well. Giving the audience enough time to explore the characters and the world, while also providing a sensory burst of action is a tough balance to find, but Eggers does a great job at doing so. Although this can sometimes lend to some minor pacing issues, it was a necessary balance that helped give a real grasp of the story.

Directing some superb action set pieces, Eggers also proves that his talents aren’t limited to the small scale. Using established skills from previous films to flesh out the characters and world, Eggers also builds on his capabilities as a filmmaker by broadening the scope. The large scale isn’t limited to the screen either, as Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough’s music is the booming heartbeat of the film that constantly drives the story.

Putting all of these elements together, Robert Eggers has once again crafted a terrific film. Tackling the rich and dense history of the Vikings, Eggers continues to prove his talents as a filmmaker; both on the page and behind the camera. With beautiful visuals, a driving score and a stellar cast across the board, The Northman is an epic tale of brutality and humanity and will surely entertain.

Director: Robert Eggers

Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang

Writers: Robert Eggers, Sjón

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