The Northman (2022)

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Robert Eggars (The Lighthouse (2019), The Witch (2015)) gives us toxic masculinity writ large without a shred of irony or insight.

I’m still trying to work out the point of this overwrought ‘historical’ melodrama. It’s got plenty of blood, gore and A list stars. Ethan Hawke is grizzled King Aurvandil, intent on ruining his son Amleth’s life by obligating him to a life of vengeance, rather conveniently moments before Aurvandil is murdered. His voiceless wife Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) is carted off and young Amleth morphs into adult buff berserker Alexander Skarsgård, hopelessly tied to a revenge-filled fate.

Along the way there is a lot of rape and murder, a brush with Björk as a prophetess, Willem Defoe as a seer and Anya Taylor-Joy as love interest Olga of the Birch Forest. We are in Amleth’s world so the god magic is seen as real. There are smoke and wolves and blood sacrifices. If you’ve watched the TV show Vikings you’ll be familiar with it. Through it all, Skarsgård acts like a rock, giving handy exposition as he talks to his sword or communicating with grunts and frowns.

Not that there’s usually much depth to a vengeance story. For a moment it looked like Eggers might be taking us down an unpredictable path where Olga might have some character development but no.

I wasn’t a fan of The Lighthouse and although I recently rewatched The Witch for its spooky, dark and dirty vibe, it once again disappointed me with its prosaic and shallow denouement. I can’t help but think that Eggars doesn’t understand subtext.

Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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