In the ninth century, on an island in modern-day north-east Scotland, a young prince watches Amelith helplessly as his uncle Fulner first kills his father, the Viking king Orvandel (Ethan Hawke), and then his mother, Queen Godrin (Nicole Kidman). Picks. Amelith can escape by rowboat to the European mainland.
In The Northman, Robert Eggers narrates the legend of Amletus, written by the Danish clergyman Saxo Grammaticus in the mid-twelfth century – Shakespeare later shortened the original in the world-famous Hamlet.
After the tragic introduction, the audience met the adult and now it’s the muscular Norman Amelith (Alexander Skarsgård) on Kievan Rus’. Still blasphemy, and still hateful: “I will avenge you, Father! I will save your mother! I will kill you, Fjölnir!” For twenty years he has blasphemed after dreaming of revenge, but so far to no avail. He joins a group of Vikings deep in Eastern Europe, stealing and looting on his way through Slavic villages, watching heartlessly as his men burn seagulls burning captive villagers in enclosed huts – unlike his hated uncle at home.
Amelith’s only goal in life: revenge
Despite all the brutality that is sometimes hard to bear, “The Northman” is particularly convincing in these fight scenes, the actors almost dancing through the excellently designed fights. The predictability of the rest of the plot, the lack of emotional depth, the sometimes absurd esoteric secrecy of the legends of the North shown here – all this makes Robert Eggers almost forget the audience with such long sequences of the plot.
Ironically, here in the East, Amelith meets a blind major (Björk), who presents him with an important prophecy, but unfortunately also reveals the rest of the film to the audience. With this help, the Viking prince contemplates the life task that he has set himself – revenge! – He leads disguised as a slave towards Iceland to kill his uncle Vulner there. He meets Slavic magician Olga (Anya Taylor Joy). Friendship turns into love, and together they embark on revenge.
Film mum Nicole Kidman: Son Skarsgård is only nine years older
With the exception of the fight scenes, The Northman is said to be very difficult, some dialogues seem involuntarily funny, and the Scandinavian accent at times applied is almost ridiculous. For example, when Amelith, the enraged prince, whispers to his sword that “we both kill” only at night. Since then, he lives for weeks in the orbit of his hated uncle in Iceland, testing the patience of the audience and the patience of Olga, who also has revenge in her mind.
Still fond of him. This is incredible not only because the audience sees friendly looks and no sparks between the two, but also because Swede Skarsgård is two decades older than Taylor Joy. His movie mother, played by Nicole Kidman, is barely aging despite the leap of time and harsh Icelandic weather. In the end, Gudrún’s taboo-free approach doesn’t sound like incest, the lovers are more likely to be taken away from Kidman and Skarsgård due to the age difference of just nine years.
Prince Amelith remains dumb
Despite its top-notch cast and impressive visual strength – the movie was shot in Ireland and Iceland – The Northman feels like a vague fever dream and is rarely truly convincing. Some scenes seem absurd: the young prince is transformed into a “real man” in an initiation ritual with Odin, but to do so he has to run on all fours like a wolf, eat from a bowl, and later bark and howl. All in all, the divine manifestations—the upbringing ritual, but also the recurring dream of Amelithes of Valhalla—seem like an ornate flight of LSD. It is not uncommon for Amelith’s dreams of deities to break completely from the current plot, and at first the delusions and horrors are hard to follow.
However, ‘Northman’ is still a small experiment due to nature shots from Scandinavia and furious fight scenes.
Rating: 2 out of 5 points
Northman Feature Film 2022, 137 minutes in cinemas