The latest film from Robert Eggers is something of a departure from his previous work, but still contains the characteristic style for which the director has become known. Less psychological and more a tale of brooding revenge, The Northman is a Viking saga put to film. Daniel Evans reviews…
There are certainly many strengths. Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough’s score is excellent, it varies from percussive lows to regal highs and adds colour to the world that Eggers creates. The cinematography is also superb, with some shots that are genuinely stunning. The cast is strong, Alexander Skarsgård’s physicality is engrossing, and Anya Taylor-Joy continues to add to her impressive list of performances. Particular praise should go to Claes Bang’s turn as Fjölnir. He has a great presence on screen and brings subtlety to a character that could have easily become one note.
Its story is also fairly one-note
The Northman is not perfect. Its pacing is sometimes slow and at points it is somewhat lethargic. Its story is also fairly one-note. It is a tale of vengeance and does not divert from this path in any meaningful way. There are revelations that change perspectives, but these do not significantly change the motivations or actions of the films characters.
I could not help feeling that there was a more interesting story hidden inside the Northman. Fjölnir’s story seemed to have had far more going on in it, yet most happened off screen. I’ll avoid spoilers, but there was a far more interesting character there than Skarsgård’s revenge fuelled Amleth, and I felt he was largely unexplored.
Torn between a fairly by-the-numbers story of vengeance and a much more artful Norse saga
I did not dislike this film, but I must confess I left feeling confused. It seemed torn between a fairly by-the-numbers story of vengeance and a much more artful Norse saga. Had it settled on either one, then it would have been the better for it. There are around three scenes involving mystic fortune telling and while each is masterfully constructed, I began to think after the third that two could easily have been cut without harming the story.
The Northman is brilliantly shot, scored and has strong performances. It is certainly worth watching if you enjoy this type of thing, but if you’re expecting an easy ride then you will be confused for most of its run time. It has its weaknesses, but its stylistic boldness is refreshing to see in a big budget film, and I hope it sets a precedent for studios to fund more projects like it.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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