The Northman (2022)

2h 17m
Robert Eggers
Alexander Skarsgård Nicole Kidman Claes Bang

The Northman is a star-studded production.

The Northman tells the story of Amleth, a young prince of a Norse king who goes into exile after his father is killed by his uncle, Fjölnir (Claes Bang), who then usurps Amleth’s kingship and marries his mother. As Amleth leaves he vows to avenge his Father by killing Fjölnir and saving his mother, Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman). After being raised abroad by Viking raiders as a berserker, Amleth, with the help of a Slavic slave-woman, Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), seeks out his uncle in Iceland and mete out revenge. Robert Eggers co-wrote the script with Icelandic poet and author Sjón.

Eggers’ film is very, very violent. It made me wonder how this brutal film got a 15 certificate. It seems that violence is kind of OK with UK censors but portrayals of sex are considered more of a problem. What does that tell you about our society? The harsh, bleak life depicted in the film is probably accurate. The depictions of violence are also probably accurate. What interests me is that the consequences of this violence (as in other films) are distorted. Recovery times for serious injuries are skipped over. In one scene Amleth is badly tortured but seems to regain full health almost miraculously.

Neil Price, a British archaeology professor who specialises in the Viking Age, was brought in to advise on The Northman

He says, “This is by far the most accurate depiction of the Viking Age I’ve ever seen. I was on set during pre-production when they were in the process of bringing all of this to life and I found it overwhelming – I’ve never seen this level of attention to detail in an historical film before.”

Alongside that realism there are strong supernatural themes centering on fate and destiny as well as hallucinogenic/dream sequences. It’s a heady blend.

I found this a disturbing film to watch but also a beautiful one. Amleth’s life is filled with horror, sorrow, and bitterness. He is twisted by his desire for revenge. Even his relationship with Olga fails to redeem or transform him. The theme repeated time and time again is that a man cannot escape his fate. Let’s hope that bleak message is not true.

The beauty to be found in this film is the way it is shot, the music by Sebastian Gainsborough and Robin Carolan and the spectacular scenery.

Watching the film left me undecided and with many questions. It’s certainly worth seeing. In fact I will have to watch it again before I can say I really understood it!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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