Image: Alexander Skarsgard in The Northman [Source: Variety]
From visionary director Robert Eggers comes The Northman, an action-filled epic that follows a young Viking prince on his quest to avenge his father’s murder.
On the surface this may appear to most as your box standard revenge flick. Boy on a life long quest to hunt the man who slew his father. But for those familiar with Eggers previous work, know they are in for something far more surreal and prophetic. I had not too long ago watched my first film of Eggers, The Lighthouse. It was a film so rich and creatively poignant that it reawakened me to the true power of the cinematic artform. So as you can imagine when I came across The Northman, I was not quite sure where Eggers career was going, surely this could not be as creatively free as The Lighthouse as it seemed to be telling a far more action orientated story. But as I was quick to learn that Eggers is not afraid to blend violence into the storytelling in meaningful ways. The Northman is as much an ode to the frightful capabilities of violence in storytelling.
It’s storytelling dripping with atmosphere, the direction as per Eggers track record oozes with a culture rich references to art, cinema and mythology. Which being a film centred around Vikings it is brimming with it. Not in a fantastical way but in a dense and visceral manner, which is only captured so perfectly through the majesty of the cinematography. Expertly orchestrated around the vast desolate landscapes of snow, forest and rock. This is a film of the elements and the cinematography is keen to capture it with greys, red and greens. Equally with its wide lenses it perfectly flattens the shots to give every scene a strong sense of scale as well as firmly cementing characters absorbed by their environments. This plays hand in hand into Eggers direction who wants to exemplify that the environments are of the characters makings, they are absorbed by them and are lost in them.
I believe this idea comes through naturally through the performances which are stunningly bold and remarkably silent equally. What I mean by this is that the characters while surrounded and seeped in supernatural and otherworldly phenomena encompass a grounded and visceral performance. Nicole Kidman, who has made a name in recent years for pursuing and absolutely nailing character performances is no exception here, she possesses some scenes that damn near steal the entire show. Equally a strong is the performance by Anya Taylor Joy who I feel is where the audience is truly connected, she is our feet on the ground while Skarsgard is the unyielding action that drives the plot dragging the audience along with him. All three make stand out performances and deliver a superb ensemble for films atmosphere.
While the plot at times seems to fumble in the editing and pacing can at times get slogged down. Overall, Eggers has cemented himself as a true up and coming visionary director. Possessing a style that is rich and cinematic in scope as well as a grand, prophetic storytelling niche that is really seen in todays cinematic releases. I feel Eggers is making films that are bringing the art back into the form. While that may sound like his films and The Northman is attempting to be high brow, its quite the contrary, Eggers knows how to tell a story that is entertaining, rich, gripping and encompassing for all.