My life seems to be surrounded by Norse Mythology and Vikings at the moment. My D&D group is adventuring through the lands of Svilland, a Norse Mythology inspired campaign setting, and I’ve been painting the minis for and playing Blood Rage. It was during a baordgame night where we were playing Blood Rage that I invited a mate to come to The Northman screening with me, and I’m glad I did.
My mate you see is the DM for our Nordic romp and as such has gone way deeper into Norse mythology than I have as part of his weekly preparation for our games, and chatting with him after the film was like being with a child in an all you ca eat lolly shop. Not only was he able to tell me that the mythology and rituals in The Northman are all solidly based on correct mythology, but he was also excited because he now had a ton of new idea to bring into the campaign.
And why, you may ask am I waxing lyrical about my mate rather than telling you about The Northman you my be thinking. We’ll it’s because the film was not quite what I was expecting. It was indeed much more. Often I like to avoiding finding out too much about a film I’m going to see as I want to experience it as fresh as I can. But from what I had seen or heard about The Northman (Brutal, Graphic) I was semi expecting an action/battle driven, blood-soaked Hollywood blockbuster style film.
Instead The Northman reminds me of many of the superb ‘foreign’ films I have seen, where storytelling is king, and visual artistry over distracting action is the rule. But worry not, despite it’s setting, The Northman is an English language film with scarcely any subtitles. Though I do wonder how much better it may have been if the characters had spoken old Norse.
So The Northman has many layers, and writing about it won’t do it the justice the film deserves. In simple terms it is a story of honour, revenge and redemption. But throughout we are introduced to a lot of Norse mysticism which is rightfully treated as real and very tangible. If you’ve heard anything about the film you’ll know it’s a story about Amleth, a boy who grows into a man seeking vengeance for the death of his father. The Northman is definitely about the journey, but manages to throw a couple of curve balls along the way.
For action fans there is still plenty to get excited about, especially in the second act where we discover than Amleth has turned his fury into other avenues and has become a Viking Berserker, one of the legendarily fighters and most brutal killers, who pillage Eastern Europe. Embodying the spirits of wolves, these warriors are fearless and by the end of the first battle we witness Amleth is soaked in blood. But whilst his adopted kin are celebrating, Amleth wanders around the destroyed village stumbling upon a seer who reminds him of his destiny to avenge his father and fills him in on the current location of the person responsible.
Amleth sets his life course in a new direction and takes on a new role as we enter into the third chapter that will lead to a stunning conclusion of Amleth’s journey.
As viscerally violent as The Northman is, writer and director Robert Eggers attention to detail and desire for the story to be grounded in authenticity delivers a film that not only has you on the edge of your seat for the majority of the runtime, but also draws you into the mystical journey and living conditions of the period with more credibility than a Discovery Channel documentary ever could.
Visually the film is just incredible, with the attention to detail and amazing sets reminds me of the visual feast that was seeing Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings on the big screen for the first time.
Of course none of this would count for anything if Alexander Skarsgård hadn’t fulfilled his destiny to become The Northman, and even the likes of Nicole Kidman in her pivotal role as Queen Gudrún. It’s great actors that pull everything together and films live or die on their performances. The Northman not only lives, but celebrates on the backs of the performances, delivering and experience, yes an experience that marks The Northman as a very strong contender for film of the year.
Rating: R16 Restricted to persons 16 years and over. Graphic violence, cruelty, animal cruelty & sexual material.
GEEKERY rating: 5/5