As Hollywood goes through it’s trends, releasing films of similar veins, the outsiders continue making films that challenge the norm and new insight to genres that have been neglected. Vikings were once a source for cinematic appeal, briefly. If anyone can recall that over dramatic swashbuckling action film starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis as friends and rivals in the 1958 classic, The Vikings, Robert Eggers’ vision will definitely knock any remaining memory from your mind. Eggers’ take on the Vikings is something to behold and marvel at. There is violence, death, horror, copious amounts of blood and deep-seated vengeance at the core. Those who are squeamish, need not see this epic. However, they would be missing out on a truly fantastic, mesmerising slice of cinema.
After his beloved father, King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke) is cruelly murdered in front of him by his uncle, Fjölnir (Claes Bang), young Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) flees his home, vowing that one day he will return and have his revenge. Years later, Amleth is grown, not just as man but a wild beast. Once he finds his way to his uncle, by the guidance of the gods and through witchcraft, he plots his deadly vengeance, but how far will he go to ensure he avenges his father?
Inspired by the legend of Amleth, the Viking Prince, Eggers and co-writer Sjón, have created a fantastical world filled with Norse mythology, paganism and the supernatural. All of this feels grounded by historical design of the players, sets and costumes, right down to the behaviours of the characters. Everything seems like it was completely natural, even the scene where two Vikings fight naked in a volcano. In fact, the Vikings seem to do quite a few activities in a near naked state from rites of passage, war dancing by a fire, going into battle and avenging one’s father.
Alexander Skarsgård was born to play Amleth, he is The Northman. Embodying Amleth’s damaged heart and soul, he rips through the screen as a wild beast, barely tamed but able to methodically plan out his uncle’s demise. He’s matched well with Anya Taylor-Joy’s sorceress from The Rus, who doesn’t steal the spotlight but does embellish Skarsgård’s protagonist. Their rather gentle romance is also not over blown, it is carefully woven into the story. It’s also good to see other returnees from The Witch, even in smaller roles, with Kate Dickie and Ralph Ineson making an appearance. However, the scene stealer of the film is Bjork herself as a Seeress, who prophesies Amleth’s road to revenge. It is utterly beautiful and terrifying at the same time.
Moulding together historic fiction, inspiration from legends and the true horrific nature of the Vikings, the fantasy elements are never exaggerated but like the rest of the film, beautifully portrayed on screen. Not to mention the amazing locations in Ireland, standing in for Iceland for the most part. There is so much about this film to appreciate.
There is no doubt that Eggers has a distinct style. As his filmography grows, he will hopefully continue this way of making films that are as atmospheric and visceral as they are gut retching and bold. The Northman isn’t just a violent story about revenge, there are scenes of devastation that barely involve a drop of blood, right next to tender stolen moments of affection, all of which have a place in this saga.
The Northman is released in cinemas 15th April