“Live in honor. Safeguard the family of your blood.”
Story: It’s the year of our pagan lords 895, and young Prince Amleth welcomes his father back from war. But before Amleth knows it, his father is dead, his mother is stolen away, and it’s time to flee. Cut to a grown Amleth in the early 10th Century, thirsting for revenge. Sound familiar? This is the OG tale, baby.
Genre I’d put it in: Legends That Go Further Back Than You Thought Actioners
Release Date: 2022
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Harks back to Viking history and myth, but otherwise original
Gotta say: Hamlet? The Lion King? New kids on the block y’all. Writer(with Sjón)/Director Robert Eggers craft a film based on the 11th Century writer Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum. Yep, that far back. Eggers digs into Viking history and lore with both hands, creating an incredibly true-to-life look at the lives of 9th and 10th Century Vikings (mostly warriors) and Norsemen (mostly traders) of Scandinavia. And it’s epic in every sense of the word. Not only is it almost two and a half hours, it’s visually breathtaking, incredibly detailed, and as historically accurate as Eggers could design. Northman is not heroic in the romantic sense. It’s visceral, raw, and nasty. And I was absolutely captivated.
As with his film The Witch, Northman is painstakingly precise in it’s visual depiction of life in that era, in those locations. It’s a visual feast for set design/costuming/cultural anthropology nerds like me, and I ate it up. Getting to see this on the big screen allowed me to really soak in all of the grit, grime, blood, and harsh conditions these characters lived in day-to-day, and that made my reactions to what was going on onscreen more gut-wrenching, as if I was on the outskirts of the shot, my bare feet sinking into the muddy grass. With every film, Eggers gets closer to perfecting his ability to draw viewers into the world he’s created, and it’s astonishing here.
Apparently Alexander Skarsgård had been wanting to make a Viking film for a while now, and connecting with Eggers was a perfect storm. Skarsgård so fully inhabits Amleth it went beyond shocking to my completely forgetting I was watching an actor perform. And, of course, the rest of the cast offers up their A-Games, including Björk as a Seeress that reminds Amleth of his duty, and Gustav Lindh as Amleth’s skeevy, narcissistic cousin Thorir. (Yes, the big names in the cast are amazing. But you knew I’d say that, didn’t you? So instead I decided to shine a little light on the lesser-knowns. What can I say, I’m a giver.)
With hints of Conan, Hamlet (which was based on the Amleth myth), Macbeth, and yes Eggers’ own The Witch, Northman‘s incredible story, brilliant performances, and brutally beautiful cinematography will pull you in.
#Protip: If you’re interested in knowing more about the original stories this film is based on? Check out Project Gutenburg.