The Northman

The Northman ★★★★

"You are still a beast cloaked in man flesh."

Robert Eggers delivers once more with historical action-adventure epic 'The Northman,' one that feels more akin to Bergman's 'The Virgin Spring' or a tighter revenge thriller at times, much to my intrigue. The cast is fantastic, with lead Alexander Skarsgard putting a ton of work into bulking up his body to play the part of Viking warrior prince Amleth, who sets out to avenge his father and rescue his mother after a betrayal that leaves his village sacked and he's left all alone in his cold, desolate, brutal world. I do, however, wish we got some more screentime from some of the bigger names, like Willem Dafoe, Ethan Hawke and Bjork, but they all make a great impact in the little time they get. It's technically and visually stunning, from the endless, gorgeous vistas and booming soundtrack to the cinematography, rich and dabbling in light, dark and fire so effectively.

The aforementioned thriller-type atmosphere was very much appreciated; I thought it was going to have a really epic scale throughout and feature tons of large battles with meticulous planning in its choreography, but past the raid sequence that introduces Amleth, it turns into more of a psychological thriller caked in death; he engages with the occasional witch and ominous animal that help guide him on the right path, finding his target pretty early on and instead choosing to sow doubt, chaos and horrors in the camp to break his mind and his spirit instead. It was a lovely direction that I really appreciated and didn't expect. The comparisons to 'The Virgin Spring' really stood out to me too, with a particular bed killing instantly making me recall Bergman's brutal classic.

It's clear that Eggers is a man with a very fine eye for detail and diligent planning and this always comes through clearly and painstakingly in his works. This one is certainly a bigger, bolder endeavor than his last two, losing a lot of the magical realism and surrealism of his other works, but it's still there in small portions, lovingly so. While this is my "least favorite" of the trio he's put out so far, it's still a fantastic film, if not a little overlong in a few sections and sadly sporting an ending that felt way too abrupt and quick for my liking, considering how long we awaited that finale. Regardless, it's one of the finer historical epics I've seen in a very long time, one as intricate as it is barbaric. Plus, where else will you see a film including Dafoe slapping his own cock, Hawke crawling on all fours and baying like a wolf, and Skarsgard screaming to the heavens as ferociously as possible? It's intense, it's bloody, it's relentless, and I'm all for it.

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