The Northman is an epic Shakespearean tale of revenge that amazes with its impressive photography and production value.
Watching The Northman is the closest thing to traveling through time. The film manages to capture the historical period and mythology of the Vikings with a breathtaking level of accuracy. In this Amleth, a Viking prince, seeks revenge after his father is murdered by his uncle. On a basic level, that synopsis may remind people of Shakespeare’s Hamlet or Disney’s The Lion King, but this film takes its own route. With every single frame the film reaffirms that you are about to have a unique experience.
Alexander Skarsgård portrays Amleth and fully commits to the physical demands of the role. As impressive as his work is, the standout of the film is Nicole Kidman. She has a monologue that changes the viewer’s perception of the whole film. Her character challenges the notion of heroes or villains and brings an unexpected humanity to all of it. Rounding up the impressive cast are the performances of Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe, Ethan Hawke, and Bjork. They all manage to make the most with their roles.
One of the best qualities of the film is how well it balances the realistic tone with the mythological aspects of the story. Dreams and visions present to us the mythology of the world. Those sequences make the audience connect with the protagonist’s perspective of the world and they never seem out of place nor do they detract from the realism of the story.
The only thing that prevents The Northman from being a great film is the ending. Although it is essentially “good ending”, it feels rushed and lacks emotional weight. It’s the kind of ending that leaves the viewer feeling cold wondering why it ended that way. Nevertheless, it works because it highlights the tragedy of the story.
Despite the ending not being as excellent as the rest of the film, The Northman is memorable and has timeless appeal. The photography, the production values, the performances, and the direction make this film worth watching. For the most part, it’s an experience that cannot be easily compared to any other. Director Robert Eggers successfully adds another good film to his resume. We can only hope that next time he achieves another ending on the same level of greatness as The Witch.