I have always been interested in the story of the Vikings, but just like anything else, history has been hit and miss with them. From what I have gathered, they never wore the horned helmets seen in pop culture, but they did spend most of their time farming, ship building, and they had great hygiene. With their popularity seeming to be back in style, director Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse) takes his turn with “The Northman”.
Starring Alexander Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Elliott Rose and Gustav Lindh, the story begins in Europe during 895 A.D. with King Aurbandill War-Raven (Hawke) returning home from a quest to his queen, Gudrun (Kidman) and their son, Amleth (later played by Skarsgard). The next day, Aurvandill is betrayed and murdered by his brother Fjolnir (Bang), who then takes over his village and takes Gudrun as a prisoner. Amleth is barely able to escape, and while faking his death he vows to to come back to both rescue his mother and get his revenge. In doing so as he grows, he becomes part of a Viking horde pillaging cities and decides at one point to break away from them disguised as a slave that is being sent to Fjolnir’s new settlement. Upon arriving, Amleth sees that his mother is no longer a prisoner but is now the wife of Fjolnir and they have a young son named Gunnar (rose). From there, Amleth works to bring his plan to fruition.
There are no major shout out performances here, but there were no disappointing performances either. This gave me the opportunity to really dig into the look, feel, and telling of the story, which I really enjoyed. From what I have studied, this really does it’s time and characters justice along with sets and set pieces that are very period-correct. I particularly enjoyed the use of fire as lighting versus “Hollywood” lighting to give the sense that I was right there with the characters. Most of it was filmed in Ireland in cloudy weather which added to the feel and mood as well.
Unfortunately, “The Northman” is WAY too long, period! This could easily have been forty-five minutes shorter and I would have been fine, but the second and third acts just took what seemed like forever to me. Looking at Eggers track record, I can see the influence from the darkness of films like “The Lighthouse” and “The Witch” added to this film, and although I appreciate his realistic approach, there were sections of violence and darker subjects that was just too much for me. I hate to say this but I truly cannot recommend this film at all and will not see it again.