The Northman, written by Sjón and director Robert Eggers, is easily the film I’m most excited about this year. I’ve reached a point where I’m getting burnt out on all the superhero flicks. Okay, I guess you can all kill me now, but that’s how I feel. So to know that something that cost $90 million to make is an original piece of intellectual property is incredibly refreshing when it seems as though Disney/Marvel owns the big-budget entertainment universe.
If you’ve known me for even twenty seconds, you know that I am borderline obsessed with Alexander Skarsgard. So when I heard that this was coming out a few years ago, it was my most hotly anticipated film of, I don’t know, the decade? Then you add in the fact that Eggers, who is nothing short of an absolute genius, is directing. Then, with the announcement of the addition of another one of my all-time favorite actors, Ethan Hawke, to the cast, I was geeking out hard.
“…a grand betrayal sends Amleth away from his family home.”
So, when I got the press email, I immediately threatened the rest of the Film Threat staff [in the spirit of the film — Editor’s Note] with bodily harm if I didn’t get to review it. Of course, I don’t think I would never actually resort to physical violence over a motion picture. Who knows? Stranger things have happened. Anyway, I was overjoyed that I would be able to see the film before its public release. However, this has nothing to do with the content, and I’m sure you’re all begging me, possibly out loud, to shut the hell up and get to the actual review.
The Northman is an amalgamation of Icelandic Eddaic poetry and Norse mythology in an original, timeless tale. It begins with some ravens flying. This is shot in a way only Eggers’ longtime cinematographer, Jarin Blaschke, can shoot it. We then look down on Viking ships arriving at a seashore. Young Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak) can tell from looking at the horizon that his father’s coming home. So he runs to the Queen’s chambers. His mother, Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman in a bravura performance), almost hits Amleth for bursting in while she’s dressing, but then he announces that “father is here!” she changes her mind.
Eventually, we meet Amleth’s father, King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke in another bravura performance), and his brother, Fjölnir (Claes Bang, in… you guessed it, another bravura performance). They’ve returned from doing their Viking conquering thing and are ready to celebrate. We find out after the celebration that War-Raven has been wounded badly in the liver. He declares it’s time for Amleth to find out the spiritual secrets of kings. What follows is one of many psychedelic scenes where there’s a lot of chanting and hallucinations. After the ritual is over, a grand betrayal sends Amleth away from his family home.
"…[Eggers] cannot make a bad picture. If he ever does, I think the world might end..."