Robert Eggers’ third feature is an imbalanced Viking revenge film that cannot stand on its own two feet.
To say we have been expecting the third feature from one of the most interesting filmmakers working right now is an understatement. Robert Eggers has been crafting quite the filmography with his last two feature films, The Witch and The Lighthouse. There has not been a filmmaker like Eggers that has burst into the world of filmmaking in quite a while. When the trailer for The Northman was released, the film immediately shot up to my second most anticipated film of this year. You could say that I was looking forward to this film, and being able to watch this on the big screen was a necessity for me. Well, let’s journey into the brutal landscape of Robert Eggers’ The Northman.
The Northman is directed by visionary artist, Robert Eggers. The film’s script is written by Eggers and Sjón (Lamb). The film stars Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Gustav Lindh, Elliott Rose, Willem Dafoe, and Björk. The film’s visual language is crafted by frequent collaborator, Jarin Blaschke. The Northman’s musical score is composed by Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough.
In The Northman, we follow the revenge-filled journey of Prince Amelth (Alexander Skarsgård). Son of King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) and Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman), the family rule over their kingdom on the Island of Hrafnsey. One day, after returning from battle, King Aurvandil War-Raven realizes that he must prepare his son to eventually take the throne as he feels his days are numbered. The two participate in a ritual fueled by hallucinogenics and rage overseen by the king’s jester, Heimir (Willem Dafoe). In the morning, Fjölnir (Claes Bang), led by his small army of soldiers kills the king, and Amleth is forced to retreat. Amleth escapes his father’s kingdom leaving behind his mother and becomes a berserker raiding Slavic villages. He finds love with a sorceress named Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) while planning his return to reclaim his kingdom, avenge his father, save his mother, and kill his murderer uncle.
The Northman is a conflicting cinematic achievement in the filmography of Robert Eggars. The film is equal parts captivating and convoluted, to say the least. As always, I want to first concentrate on the positives of this film because it has a lot of them and they rightfully should be highlighted when discussing the picture. Jarin Blaschke’s cinematography is a spectacle for the ages. The framing, lighting, and movements fluidly work together to create a visually appealing aesthetic for this film. Carolan and Gainsborough’s work on the musical score is magnificent and encapsulates the aura that is carried through this film. Both of these aspects work so well to create the immersive atmosphere within The Northman. I even found myself really enthralled by Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, and Anya Taylor-Joy’s performances. However, where the picture excels there is also parts where the film falls ultimately flat. The first half of the film plays off way too fast that it does not allow moments to breathe. Once we reach the climax and start the second half, the film begins to drag its weight to wrap up. Characters like Willem Dafoe’s Heimir and Björk’s Seerees get left by the wayside and never come back up again. The script and editing are ultimately the driving factors holding this film from being great. Where Eggers’ last two films captivate the audience through their rich storytelling The Northman sadly cannot find the use of its potential in its epic story.
Watch The Northman in theaters.