The Northman

The Northman ★★★★½

A real throat-punch of a film; relentlessly grim and brutal, with just a glimmer of hope and humour to keep you from turning and running from the screen. We've seen this story before - The Lion King did it with a lot more colour - yet the quality of production here makes it feel like something entirely new. This is a simple tale told well, extremely well.

Robert Eggers showed with The Witch and The Lighthouse that he's interested in bringing back to life historical settings, customs and practices. Here, 9th Century Iceland is vividly recreated (ironically filmed in Ireland), both aesthetically and in the culture of the times. Either the landscape or the practices of the people, often both, entirely fill the screen. Even among this misery, there is so much life constantly filling the frame that is almost impossible not to be engaged.

Despite the deathly serious subject matter and dour tone, Eggers isn't afraid of throwing a bit of creative flair into the mix. Whether it's an imaging of a flight to Valhalla via Valkyrie or a fart joke, the director is so in control of his craft that scatterings of the absurd have no effect on just how lived-in the film feels. We probably knew it already, but if nothing else The Northman confirms Robert Eggers as perhaps the director to watch.

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