Movie Review: The Northman – SM Mirror
THE NORTHERN MAN
Released April 22n/a
If the Vikings of 800-1000 AD had the technology, The Northman is the movie they would have made. This is a classic epic set in this era and follows the Norse legend of “Amleth”, a legendary Viking warrior played by Alexander Skarsgard. To appreciate history a bit of historical context is beneficial. The legend of Amleth comes from one of the sources used by Shakespeare for his plays, “The History of the Danes”, from the medieval historian Saxo Grammaticus. The Vikings were intrepid travelers, mostly from the Scandinavian region. They raided and settled in areas as far afield as what is now North Africa, the Middle East, the British Isles, Iceland, North America, France, Estonia , Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Constantinople and Arabia. Today we think of the Vikings primarily as pagan raiders. However, they established colonies wherever they landed and created their own laws, art, and architecture. They became farmers, fishermen and traders and had a profound impact on civilization.
The Northman is packed full of Norse mythology – so packed it’ll make your head spin, or maybe roll down the aisle, because there’s a lot of mutilation and body part cutting here. Warning: this film is not for the faint-hearted or the faint-hearted. There’s realism to the scenery, as it was filmed primarily in Ireland and Iceland and the story is set in locations that are now Scotland, Ukraine and Iceland. At the beginning of the film, two crows fly towards the place where the story begins. A pair of ravens appear in many Viking legends as they were familiars used by the god Odin. The title cards are written in ancient Norse runes, though they don’t exactly match the translation in the subtitles.
Skarsgard reportedly approached director Robert Eggers with the idea for the film, as he had always wanted to make a Viking film. Skarsgard is the son of actor Stellan Skarsgard and grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Sweden. He has acted intermittently in film, television and theater since childhood. More recently, he played “Eric Northman”, a Viking vampire, in the series “True Blood”. The Northman also stars Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit) Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe.
Eggers enlisted famed Icelandic author Sjon to help pen the script – he had been introduced to Sjon by Icelandic singer Bjork on a previous trip to Iceland. Bjork has a fleeting but important role in the film and graces the film with her amazing voice.
If you see The Northman, you’ll witness a director’s vision of history fascinated by the midpoint of lives that have gone before us, and you’ll find similarities to life as it is now.
When asked why his films are set in the past, Eggers quotes 17th-century poet John Dryden: “For mankind is still the same and nothing is lost out of nature, though everything is changed.” Eggers adds, “As much as I’m totally in love with the verisimilitude of the tangible world, it gets into the spirit. Present it without judgment… Just because, it is what it is. And it’s… fascinating… The most interesting thing is that it’s still us.
Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a talent manager at Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. [email protected]