Here is our review of The Northman, Robert Eggers’ latest film, based on the Nordic myth of Hamlet
TITLE: The Northman. GENRE: dramatic, thriller. NATION: US, UK. REGIA: Robert Eggers. CAST: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Gustav Lindh, Ethan Hawke, Björk, Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe, Oscar Novak. time: 137 minutes. PRODUCTION: Regency Enterprises. ITALIAN DISTRIBUTION: Universal Pictures. EXIT: April 21, 2022.
Of Robert Eggers we will hear about it for a long time. We have heard this phrase repeated for years, since 2015 to be precise. In that year she went out to the cinema The VVitch, the director’s first film, and the world stopped to admire it. The same result had The Lighthouse a few years later. The great critical success, however, is no longer enough for Eggers, than with this one The Northman wants to achieve an excellent result even at the box office. From the second to the third feature film, the production went from a budget of 11 million to 90 million dollars, with one goal: to make as many people as possible understand that Robert Eggers is one of the best directors of these years. Let’s now go into the review of The Northman, starting from trailer of the film.
In 895, King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke) returns to his kingdom on the Icelandic coast from his overseas conquests and is reunited with his wife Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) and his son and heir, Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak). Back from the battle wounded, Aurvandill decides to give Amleth responsibility for him. The two participate in a spiritual ceremony presided over by Heimir, a friend of Aurvandill. The next morning, masked warriors sent by Fjölnir (Claes Bang), brother of Aurvandill, ambush the king and kill him; Fjölnir delivers the final blow and seizes his kingdom along with Gudrún. Finnr, Fjölnir’s jailer, attempts to kill Amleth, but the boy cuts off his nose and escapes in the boat. Fleeing the island kingdom, the boy swears revenge. Two decades later, Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard) is a Viking berserker who raids Slavic villages, where a seer (Björk) reminds him of his vow: avenge his father, save his mother, kill his uncle. Traveling on a slave ship to Iceland, Amleth infiltrates her uncle’s farm with the help of Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), a Slavic woman reduced to slavery, and proposes to honor her vow.
By now you must have understood: The Northman is Robert Eggers’ great tribute to the Nordic legend of Amleth. The American director is now known for his accuracy in staging great stories set in the past. If in The VVitch we felt like we were in 17th century America, in The Northman everything we see screams ‘Northern Europe’. We are in the tenth century and the precision with which the settings are brought to the big screen is truly perfect. Through the use of unique scenographies, captured in shooting in Ireland and Northern Ireland, the viewer can immerse themselves in an ancient world, primitive in many respects and radically linked to nature. To this is added one well-curated photography, which plays a lot on a predominant color for many scene: we go from the green of the Icelandic villages to the brown of the mud in the battles, from the red of the jets of lava to the white light of the Moon.
Just as the scenography and photography were fundamental to the rendering of this feature, so was the film script. Robert Eggers understands the daunting task of bringing the well-known story of Amleth to the big screen, but he understands the perfect way to solve this puzzle. He is accompanied in the drafting of the plot by the poeta islandese Sjón Sigurdsson. The work of the two perfectly contextualizes the millenary story in just over two hours on the big screen, finding the right balance between drama and action, between violence and introspection. Although the meat on the fire is a lot, especially in the first half of the film, the path of the hero Amleth is coherent, moving from one challenge to another, first physical and then mental. The protagonist questions himself several times throughout the film, as he goes through quite a few dramatic moments, which force him to choose between his destiny and his reason. The story of Amleth, despite being well known and easy to read, has found a new dimension in The Northman, concretizing the legendary atmosphere of Northern Europe in spectacular and evocative scenes.
One of The Northman’s great attractions is his rich and talented cast. Each character takes on a very specific role within the mythology of the film, in some cases in very few scenes. If in fact the undisputed protagonist is the brutal but thoughtful Amleth by Alexander Skarsgård, other faces also conquer the viewer. We think of the Gudrún of Nicole Kidmanto which a few bars are assigned but gives one world-class performanceor to the magnetic scene with Willem Dafoewhich brings out its side more animalistic and visceral. Among all, however, the performance of Claes Bang nei panni di Fjölnir e di Anya Taylor-Joy in those of Olga. The two represent the extremes of the film, almost like a devil and an angel. On the one hand he, austere and dark-haired, bitter enemy of the hero, who however turns out to be less corrupt than expected; on the other she, ethereal and with silver hair, leading Amleth to safety. The two characters also look for each other throughout the film, inevitably rejecting each other. The sum of the two is represented by Amleth, who brings with him great fury but also the desire for calm and peace. Skarsgård’s interpretation is the perfect representation.
The Northman is a movie unique in the modern panorama. Robert Eggers is located for the first time a blockbuster budget in hand and concretizes it in the best possible way. In fact, he gives us the classic story of revengebut packs it with one direction and a very modern film script. The balance between violence and magic is perfect, although the pace suffers a bit towards the middle of the film. The sets are spectacular and, together with a well-curated photography, it helps the spectator’s complete immersion into this world. The cast does an excellent job, with iconic performances full of expressiveness and physicality, as well as seasoned with unusual languages. The Northman is a great chance for Robert Eggers to do the breakthrough in contemporary cinema. The real question is: will the public appreciate the attempt?
And you, what do you think of our review of The Northman? Will you see the film in the cinema? Let us know in the comments!
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