The Northman (2022) – Film Review

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The man from the north2022.

Directed by Robert Eggers.
With Alexander Skarsgård, Anya Taylor-Joy, Claes Bang, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Gustav Lindh and Björk.

SYNOPSIS:

A young Viking prince embarks on an epic quest to avenge the death of his father.

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Robert Eggers burst onto the Hollywood scene in 2015 with his period horror flick The witch. The genre-defining piece not only launched the career of the highly talented Anya Taylor-Joy, but also cemented Eggers as a talented writer we should be watching. In 2019, Eggers once again embraced his horror roots with the atmospheric cooler Lighthouse, which included a fierce performance duo from Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. Shortly after its release, Eggers announced that for his next project he would be directing an epic Viking revenge saga inspired by ancient Norse mythology. The creation of The man from the north, however, took place a few years earlier during one of Eggers’ trips to Iceland, which allowed him to meet Björk and the Icelandic poet Sjón. Skarsgård had also previously expressed interest in creating an Old Norse saga with Eggers and so the ingredients for the film came together in unexpected ways. Eggers and Sjón based their script on the legend of Amleth written by 12th-century Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus, the inspiration for William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and with a budget of $65 million, principal photography began in Northern Ireland with its stacked set in August 2020.

If one were to simply describe Eggers The man from the northyou could say he’s the love child of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Nicholas Winding Refn Rise of Valhalla. The explicit violence, dark atmosphere, exquisite imagery and historically accurate setting are all stunning parallels that Refn’s Viking tale and The man from the north to share. But that doesn’t mean Eggers’ effort is mediocre, no sir. The brutal nature of the Norseman’s savage world is brought to life in exquisite, barbaric detail, without compromise, by the talented young director. It is as immersive theatrical experience as possible. Starting his career with low-budget deals, it has to be said that Eggers’ transition to the big leagues is nothing short of perfect. This guy is a detail freak, as evidenced by his work on The witch and Lighthousebut the larger budget presented him with the unenviable opportunity to realize his desired vision for The man from the north without hindrance.

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With two fiercely original entries already under his belt, what Eggers has accomplished here will certainly surprise no one. This is a Robert Eggers film through and through, and his signature style is evident in every frame of the film. This is of course not a happy coincidence. Eggers worked closely with cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, who earned an Oscar nomination for his work on Lighthousecreating the specific look and tone needed to The man from the north. There’s an eerie, ethereal patina steeped in every shot, which makes even the most violent and gory scene breathtaking to behold. It is a world perpetually beaten by the primary elements; soaked by the rain, choked by the snow and warmed by the fire. A place of divine beauty and unbridled barbarism. And the degree of tactility that Blaschke captures through his lens is otherworldly. Yet its spellbinding monochrome cinematography for Lighthouse clearly remains my favourite. The score is another integral part of this film. Conceived by UK-based electronic artists Sebastian Gainsborough and Robin Carolan, the duo’s evocative music – replete with archaic instrumentation and otherworldly sounds – takes the listener on their own surreal journey; A thrilling and nightmarish journey into the heart of darkness.

Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård has stepped up his game in recent years, seeking bolder character-driven roles while trying to shake off the teen idol true blood character that brought him recognition in the first place. Her performance as an abusive husband in David E. Kelley’s HBO TV drama series big little lies brought Skarsgård plenty of accolades and this year we see him play the role of a vengeful, blood-crazed Norseman. It’s not a nuanced performance per se, but a simple performance that more than adequately does the job. It also cuts through a rather imposing figure as a towering mass of muscle and rage, decimating everything in its path. The guy is a proverbial force of nature and more. Anya Taylor-Joy who got her big break The witch, returns to work on Eggers’ latest effort, delivering an utterly mercurial turn as Olga the Slavic Witch. She is compassionate and kind like Amleth’s lover, but calculating, vicious, and deeply suspicious of others. He is a person who would do whatever it takes to survive. Claes Bang who gained international recognition playing the role of Count Dracula in the 2020 BBC/Netflix series Dracula plays Amleth’s uncle, Fjölnir. Bang not only delivers an incredibly nuanced performance, but also combines Skarsgård’s formidable physique with his own. Nicole Kidman has the least screen time in The man from the north but damn if she doesn’t bring her A-game when she needs it.

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The man from the north is a compelling revenge drama, there’s no doubt about it. There’s enough fratricidal bloodshed, unexpected revelations, gripping performances, and evocative imagery to keep you invested throughout. But what makes it extra special is that it also offers a fleeting, uncompromising glimpse into an ancient civilization and a lost culture that many have now forgotten over time.

Scintillating Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

Hasitha Fernando is a part-time doctor and a full-time movie buff. Follow him on Twitter via @DoctorCinephile for regular updates on the world of entertainment.

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