The Northman

The Northman ★★★★

A movie for those of you out there that, like me, always felt Hamlet could’ve used more sweating, farting, intestines, volcanoes, art-designed corpses, and moonlit sword fights with warrior skeletons. Eggers completes his trilogy of ye olde, ugly myths that we choose to yearn for in hopes that they deliver us some form of transcendence or freedom from our earthly barbarism with a Nordic Conan the Barbarian that begins its bloody, mud-caked revenge saga like that film in a place of disturbing and deceptive simplicity; an animalistic, single-minded focus on the troubling urge to dominate and impose strength on those that have wronged you and violently reestablish the “honorable”, patriarchal legacy of your anatomical family tree in the stars. (We've all been there?)

It definitely indulges in all its filthy rage and glory however alternating between the very considered, ritual beauty of its setting + these fiery, grisly action sequences (with brief bursts of mystical, funeral surrealism a la Excalibur interspersed) it slowly builds and complicates this mission with the hollow destructive realities of flesh and ash, and the flawed human feelings/desires that don't always cleanly align with the promises of the old stories or the fascist death drive dreams that have been passed down by your forefathers... But if all you’ve ever known is brutality and the gruesome application of force you don’t really need to adjust your beliefs, you’ll find a way to make those puzzle pieces fit no matter the cost/number of vicious decapitations. And not just as a simple “revenge is bad”, but a legitimate, subjective interrogation of this specific brand of macho fatalism and bloodlust.

Perhaps not as weird or subversive a treatment as this material could've received with less commercial demands expected of it but nonetheless, this is an impressive and deliberate and nasty vision for a film operating at this budget level… Lots of elegant long-takes, tactile production design, beastly physicality, and horror images, etc. Which of course means its destiny, the unavoidable fate it's raging against, is to bomb. But hopefully, before then I will see you all on the other side, hogs out in the fires of Valhalla 🤘

Full discussion on my podcast SLEAZOIDS.

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