The Northman

The Northman ★★★★★

"Hate is all I've ever known, but I wish I could be free of it." 

Robert Eggers The Northman has the pulsing rhythm and lyrical qualities of an epic poem. Moments of relative calm ratchet up in tension until they reach an explosion of violence, only to slow and build again to the next staccato burst of destruction, carried along, elevated and perfectly complemented by the excellent music by Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough. Jarin Blaschke's cinematography is other worldly, transporting us to a time and place that is alien in so many ways to our contemporary times. The camera movement is entrancing, often strafing the scene to give sweeping coverage before curiously moving forward or back to focus on the things we want to see (or don't depending on how horrific the violence may be at the moment), pausing at just the right moment to capture some truly gorgeous images, many frames of which could be hung on a wall on their own. The shot composition is fantastic. 

The cast is great but if you're looking for
recognizable heroes you won't them here. Our lead Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard) is all consumed with a singularity of purpose - revenge. It's so brutal and all consuming that he hasn't lived for anything else. And the film doesn't make any compromises in pursuit of his goal. In an ugly world of blood and fire, smoke and ash, Amleth stands out as a force of destruction above all the other bad men and women. A self proclaimed nightmare for those against whom he seeks revenge. There's a bit of a tragic element stitched into the narrative in that we can't help but think of a character like this functioning as a cautionary tale of the destructive power of revenge, but it also has to be said that lot of this is simply badass brutal violence. The ugliness of it all should be horrifying, but I can't help but think there will be a lot of people who will celebrate the film for the wrong reasons and take the wrong things away from it. 

I absolutely loved this film, but I admit that I'm pretty much all in on Robert Eggers at this point, so take my effusive praise with a grain of salt, I have some bias here! It goes without saying that this one most definitely won't be for everyone, as it combines a lot of art house sensibilities with some hardcore violence. Totally get why others wouldn't be onboard. 

[Final thought - How cool would it be if the opening was the same geographical location where The Lighthouse took place? It likely isn't but it crossed my mind and this is the time and place to blast out these kinds of thoughts]

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