“The Northman” proves himself astoundingly worthy of Valhalla

There was some concern when director Robert Eggers seemed to hint that his third feature film (and the first on a studio budget) was prone to interference in post-production, although he pointed out shortly after that the version of The Nordic going to theaters would be the genuine product of his distinctive vision.

As it turns out, the director wasn’t lying, because the brutally intense, pounding and utterly compelling Viking epic is undoubtedly the work of an author who knew exactly what he wanted to bring to screen and delivered it in the most uncompromising fashion possible.

Very similar The Witch And The lighthouse, The Nordic touches the ground with many of Eggers’ favorite themes, including the reframing of family mythology or folklore in a different light, characters haunted by self-doubt and self-doubt, and a protagonist in conflict with his own motives, except this one. once it’s painted on canvas nearly six times more expensive than his two previous films combined, and it shows.

The Nordic he’s not particularly bothered or cluttered with narrative, however, and you’ll also be familiar with the larger traits of the story as Eggers and co-writer Sjón adapted it from the same Danish legend that would later inspire William Shakespeare’s novel Fractionbut the “why” and the “how” are eminently more important for the function and the fruition of the film than the “what” and the “when”.

Without wasting time, we immerse ourselves directly in a first act that moves in a clip and instantly plunges us into the weirdness that becomes a huge part of The NordicThe unique charm. Ethan Hawke’s King Aurvandil returns from the war and decides that now is the time for young Prince Amleth to begin the boy-to-man journey.

To do this, the monarchical father and son literally go wild, transforming into the incarnation of beasts to break down into their most primal forms, with Willem Dafoe’s Heimir the Fool acting as the master of ceremonies. He is jarring, slightly uncomfortable and really very weird, but how The Nordic proceeds, ends up informing the whole story of Amleth until the final frame.

As Aurvandil and his heir emerge into the open, Claes Bang’s Fjölnir seizes the moment to strike, staging a bloody coup by cutting off his brother’s head and claiming the kingdom for himself. Fortunately, Amleth manages to escape and vows to revenge, which turns out to be an understatement.

Alexander Skarsgård recently complained that he didn’t want to be considered a sex symbol early in his career, but he’s now a Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actor, so that ship has long since sailed. However, he has never played a role similar to the adult Amleth before.

Approaching his performance in a way that cleverly approaches the boundary between man and beast, Skarsgård cuts a towering figure staggering forward with hunched shoulders, which is designed to do more than just show off those majestic trapezius muscles. Amleth presents himself as a man possessed in more ways than one, constantly struggling to subdue his animalistic nature and unbridled ferocity, which is not 100% successful given the bodies littered in his wake.

It’s not just Skarsgård’s show, it must be said, with the uniformly excellent cast across the board. Hawke brings severe gravity to the table that would make anyone want to ask for punishment in his name, while Dafoe completely becomes Dafoe as the bug eye, Heimir stealing the show. This is really the ensemble’s only “big” performance (although Björk’s charming seer may fall into that category for some), but each main character has many dimensions.

Bang’s Fjölnir may be the former villain of the piece, but he’s not a villain. Sure, he usurped his brother’s throne after he beheaded him and stole his wife, but it didn’t work out very well in the long run, and that’s before Amleth reappears on the scene.

He is trying to do his best and what he believes is right with the hand he has dealt with himself, matters that are not helped by a totally chaotic (in the most flattering way) Nicole Kidman, who deliberately makes you question hers. intentions, motives and truth every time he opens his mouth as Queen Gudrún.

Anya Taylor-Joy’s sorceress Olga of the Birch Forest is the relatively calm counterpoint that brings balance to the furious, confrontational and ultimately skeptical Amleth, though she points out that while he can break bodies with ease, only she is in mind-breaking. There is an air of “seen it all before fate” when it comes to their dynamic and ultimate destination, but the two are too good to let that come close to the formula of getting closer.

While some of the marketing may have been somewhat misleading in painting The Nordic as a battle-packed actioner, set pieces are regularly stunning in their own right. Eggers favors long shots that show incredible technical precision and composition of the shots, while director of photography Jarin Blaschke presents crisp, clean images that ensure that not a single frame is wasted, not even mentioning the amazing color combinations, sweeping panoramas. and the cleverly choreographed rhythm (complemented by an ever-changing soundtrack by Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough) which gives each distinct displacement of place or new blood-soaked piece a completely different dimension.

Amleth’s fate is literally spelled out verbatim in the opening voiceover, but Eggers ensures that you’ll be fully involved in the journey, despite being spoon fed from the start. The Nordic it might be a pretty standard saga of revenge on paper, but every corner of all 137 minutes boasts style, action, blood, love, lust, death, expressiveness, insularity and show to spare, so you’ll never be left wanting on stage on stage.

To be honest, it might not be for everyone, but within the first five minutes or so you’ll know if you’re willing to engage with an occasionally hallucinogenic, often horribly violent and intensely crude slice of historical mysticism that goes all-in to the extent that it is. where the culminating showdown revolves around two naked buff dudes competing with swords on top of a mountain in the midst of a volcanic eruption.

The Nordic it’s wild, amazing, fascinating and phenomenal all at the same time, but hopefully that’s just the beginning of Eggers regularly receiving sizable budgets to deliver nearly sprawling masterpieces.

Leave a Comment