By: Amanda Guarragi
Robert Eggers has easily become one of the most interesting filmmakers to watch in recent years. The Northman is his third film and it feels as if he has perfected his style. He has managed to create a balance between his visual storytelling and his linear script for audiences to appreciate. Even though this is an independent film, mainstream audiences will for sure appreciate Eggers’s approach to Viking lore and the world he created for these characters. The way he structured this story worked extremely well because of the emotional connection to his protagonist and his quest. It felt like an old story being shared with audiences for the first time and it was intriguing.
We meet Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak/Alexander Skarsgard) who is on the verge of becoming a man when his father, King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) is brutally murdered by his uncle Fjölnir The Brotherless (Claes Bang). His uncle ends up kidnapping the boy’s mother, Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman). Two decades later, Amleth is now a Viking who raids Slavic villages. He soon meets a seeress who reminds him of his vow — save his mother, kill his uncle, avenge his father. After two decades of living on his own and learning to kill, Amleth is reminded of his quest to avenge his father. He has all the tools needed to do this. And with the help of some witchcraft, he is guided by his father on this journey.
Eggers’s previous films had leaned heavily on experimental elements; style over substance if you will. Whereas in this film the visuals enhanced this simplistic narrative to emotionally connect with Amleth’s quest. There is one particular sequence Eggers designed to show that Amleth’s beating heart was tied to his family tree and that was the most beautiful thing to show on-screen. Even though Eggers did not shy away from the brutal violence known to come from the Vikings, it was impossible to look away because of how visually interesting he made those scenes.
The Northman ties in the witchcraft through Prince Amleth’s environment affecting his path. It did not overpower his quest and the focus was always on his father’s blood pact at the beginning of the film. Whether it was through animals coming to him, or the brilliant use of the score to elevate the witchy elements used throughout, it never directly felt like the witchcraft was actually performed. Instead, it felt like it was a lingering presence. Everyone in the cast played their roles well, but Nicole Kidman stole the spotlight in act four, that one scene left me stunned and showed how great of an actress she is. This had the perfect balance of Eggers’s style, baseline experimental elements, and a hero’s quest to make this film feel like a Viking epic.