The Northman

The Northman ★★★★½

Not like the other Berserkers.

Eggers is one of those cinematic time-travellers that can transform the cinema screen in to a literal window into the past, rather than just a recreation of it. Sure, I'm aware that Bjork is unlikely to be a Viking sorceress turned arty pop star, but I have yet to see proof. The biting cold, the deranged machismo, the horrible lives led by kings and servants alike - they all slowly draw the protagonist (almost-Hamlet) into the growing insanity of the absurd masculinity of Viking times (or not so absurd when Eggers is deliberately paralleling it to contemporary equivalents).

More than having anything to say, however, the main attraction of this film is its strangeness, its fever-dream explorations of magic rituals and horrific violence. The sort of film that makes the audience gasp as often as they awkwardly laugh - the line between Ethan Hawke burping and casual beheadings is very thin in The Northman. On the big screen, it is immersive beyond belief, but that also means that the tragedy, the violence, the men so aggressive that they would rather kill a child than insult their own pride - these are all inescapable for the spectator.

The directing is seamless, the cinematography skirts between desktop wallpaper and nightmarish, the performances are impeccable all round (Skarsgaard of course, and this might be my favourite from Anya Taylor-Joy yet) and, by the end of the film, I was positively sweating with exhilaration - much like with The VVitch (not as much with The Lighthouse but I could do with revisiting that).

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