The Northman (Robert Eggers, 2022, USA)

The Northman is Robert Egger's latest film. The horror auteur who developed his craft on smaller, more intimate projects The Witch and The Lighthouse, has arrived with a big-budget studio film. Northman, which supposedly cost upwards of $70M, is a rarity - a big-budget arthouse film. While it is ostensibly Eggers' most commercial film, it is still a hard swallow - over two hours of darkness, violence, insanity, and hallucinations. That's not to say that the film is not beautiful - some of the landscapes on display here (the film was shot in Iceland and Northern Ireland) - are incredible to behold. 

The film distills the revenge tale down to its barest essence. Our main character is Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard), a Viking warrior prince whose father (Ethan Hawke) is killed by Amleth's uncle Fjolnir (Claes Bang). Amleth manages to escape near-death and grows up vowing revenge for his father's murder. When we are introduced to the adult Amleth, he is with a band of Vikings launching a raid on a Slavic village. The intensity of this raid, visually and sonically, is a masterclass in filmmaking. Amleth eventually makes his way back to Iceland to seek his revenge. 

Some have complained that the characters and plot are simple in The Northman, but it is clear that Eggers does not have a heroic view of the Vikings and their exploits - as the film's ending shows, this is a tragic one. There are even some darkly comic elements of the film that peer through. More than anything else, however, The Northman is a masterclass in world-building. It is a film in which every detail is constructed with the utmost attention, rendering a living, breathing sense of place that is rare to find in mainstream, big-budget films. For that alone, The Northman should be praised. 



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