The Northman

The Northman ★★★★★

Without compromise. The Northman very much operates on a binary scale: love and hatred, savagery and beauty, fear and desire, cruelty and vengeance. This game of stark contrasts is reverberated throughout all aspects of the film; the story told is a basic one, but also one that’s eternal. In the cinematography, we bounce between natural light and blackest shadow. From cold depths to fiery volcano, from left for dead to riding the skies of Valhalla. These contrasts then intertwine; we find beauty in savagery, life in death and cruelty in vengeance. As we shy away from the violence at display we are simultaneously drawn to it. Push and pull. The soundtrack echoes this rowing motion masterfully, alternating between abrasive and harsh to mellow and subdued.

I was continually impressed at how well put-together and cohesive the movie felt, every scene reinforcing and playing into the themes and mood at hand. The meticulous attention to detail that we’ve come to expect from Eggers continues to bring joy and perhaps even shines the brightest here because this is the closest I’ve seen a film come to capturing the feeling of reading an Old Norse poem: the dramatic weight, larger-than-life rivalries and barebones composition all translated wonderfully.

You will have two different people come look at this film: One will see a film that does so much with so little. The other will see a movie that does too little with so much. One can look at it and see a remote main character, or they can see someone that inhibits everything within the frame at all times: the scenery, lightning, sense of reality all bending to and communicating Amleth’s struggle. More-so an archetypical realization than a character study perhaps. In either case, I know where I landed and am already dying to experience it again. So so happy this got made. Movies are good!

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