The Northman (2022)

The Northman
Director: Robert Eggers
Writer: Sjón, Robert Eggers
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Gustav Lindh, Elliott Rose, Willem Dafoe, Björk
Seen on: 26.4.2022

Content Note: rape

Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) only barely escaped with his life when his uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang) murdered his brother, Amleth’s father, King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke) and took over the kingdom. Amleth, only a boy then, had to leave his mother Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) behind, but swore to save her and take his revenge. Now he is grown up and makes his living as a viking. During a raid, he hears news from his uncle and, pretending to be a slave like Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) and many others, lets himself be carted off to finally fulfill the promise he gave as a boy.

I was hoping for The Northman to be a bit of a bloodfest, knowing that with Eggers, I’d probably get a bit of a challenge as well. But unfortunately, mostly what I got with The Northman is darkness – and I mean that quite literally. It’s a film we barely see and that was pretty boring to boot.

The film poster showing Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) standing on a cliff, watching a fleet in the sea.

The Northman has moments that work, mostly when Skarsgård (and earlier, Oscar Novak‘s young Amleth and Hawke) really lean into their animalistic side, basically becoming wolves. The films two most memorable scenes, apart from Björk’s short cameo, are a psychedelic trip in the Fool’s (Willem Dafoe) cave and the vikings gearing up for their raid around the campfire. You can read these scenes as “men are just animals”, which I find problematic to say the least. But really what they show is how boys and men are taught to behave like animals, and reinforce that behavior with its celebration.

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t actually seem all that interested in exploring this line of thinking about gender more thoroughly. Admittedly, there is some consideration of masculinity here (though it could have been expanded in my opinion), but it falls completely apart when it comes to the female characters. Though I hesitate to call them characters at all, they get so little time and depth in the film.

Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) screaming while wearing a wolf fur on his head.

Honestly, that wasn’t my biggest issue with the film, though. My biggest issue was just that so much of it took place in darkness and I often had a hard time seeing just what the hell was going on. Combined with its rather slow pace and artistic demeanor, it quickly made for one hell of a boring film (what else did I expect of Hamlet, I have to ask myself).

I did fall asleep for a little while in the last third because I just couldn’t give a fuck anymore. I had really hoped for a bit more entertainment from this film.

Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) and Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) walking in a line of prisoners and slaves.

Summarizing: meh.

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