Robert Eggers ascends with a primitive, poetic epic of the Vikings

Imagination and reality coexist in the films of Robert Eggers.

Going back in time to that obscure point where recorded history blurs into legends and allegories, the director’s cinematic tales combine meticulous research with a sincere belief in occultism. Eggers’s worlds are alive with tangible details, but they are just as full of images that can not be explained in a way that makes the strange feel reasonable and present.

There was never a doubt, for example, that dark forces were hiding in its early American desert The witch, Eggers feature film debut. Within the first ten minutes of this film, a baby was abducted from the title, an ultra-true crown, which he smeared on a sticky paste to smear on her naked body. The lighthouseHis doubly feverish observation showed two lighthouse keepers losing their minds while isolated during a severe storm.

Eger’s latest marks an important step towards the prevailing trend for a director known for his highly opaque artistic visions. And yet, despite the larger budget, the all-star cast and the comparatively easier analysis of the narrative, The North pushed by the same mix of myth, madness and supreme weirdness that has become Egers’s signature.

The North It feels like a natural progression for Eggers, though it is also his largest-scale venture to date: a blood-stained Viking epic that cost $ 90 million to build. (The lighthouse reached $ 11 million and The witch made for less than half the amount.) Given the dramatically increased budget, it makes sense that Eggers’s last is his most affordable work – not like The witchalmost entirely from the candle flame, not even stylized The lighthouseblack and white form of the Academy.

“Very easier in the ears. »

It is also much easier on the ears. While The witch drew his Early Modern English dialogue directly from the Geneva Bible and The lighthouse studied the spoiled, salt-coated dialects of marine dogs from his time, The North reserves mainly its Old Scandinavian and Old Slavic for rituals and prophecy. Eggers wrote the screenplay with Icelandic poet and novelist Sjón, who also wrote last year Lamb. Their collaboration reflects the lyrical, full of fog quality of the family sagas from the area, without cooling the fiery heat of the emotions that fuel its protagonist.

With a budget of $ 90 million, The North is Robert Eggers’s largest-scale enterprise to date.Focus features

Departing from the stories of the fire and the shacks of the director’s birthplace, New England, The North is based on the same Scandinavian folk tale that is said to have inspired Shakespeare’s story Hamlet – although his revenge-odyssey narrative runs along such a primeval wavelength, one could just as easily imagine Egers discovering it inscribed on a cave wall.

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The film begins with a return to the homeland, as the famous King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) returns to his queen, Gudrún (Nicole Kidman), after a mission abroad. Aurvandil’s youngest son, Amleth (Oscar Novak), is looking forward to inheriting his kingdom one day, although an initiation rite performed by Heimir (Willem Dafoe) only promises that Amleth’s fate is sealed, without being subdued. Details. (This sequence signals The NorthHis first bypass in a hallucinogenic, heavy metal area, with a blood-soaked crown and a Viking holding his chest open to reveal a sacred tree with branches in Valhalla.)

“THE camera shares his own blood sampling. »

Shortly afterwards, Amleth’s uncle, Fjolnir (Claes Bang), ambushes and assassinates Aurvandil in a bid for the throne, taking Gudrún as his queen and ordering Amleth to be killed. The boy survives, leaving his homeland, although he vows to return and claim everything that has been stolen from him.

Starring Alexander Skarsgard The North.Focus features

Years later, the film begins with an adult Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard), who lives among a group of confused Vikings and soon appears to be raiding a Slavic village, climbing the walls and steadily moving through the bloody, its muddy areas. Eggers worked with me again The witch and Lighthouse the director of photography Jarin Blaschke The Northand their riveting, intensive approach to action – including this early sequence, recorded with a single camera in uninterrupted shooting – is a striking development of the naturalistic techniques they used in the past.

As Amleth destroys countless Slavs attacking from all sides, the camera shares his bloody desire, but remains perfectly positioned to capture the intensity of the surrounding battle. Such a relentlessly impressive, passionate camera is on constant supply everywhere The North – one of the few technical fronts in which the film surpasses many of the larger budget blockbusters created by the American studio system in recent years.

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As soon as the village is occupied and following a vision of a whispered oracle (Björk) with a feathered headdress, Hamlet meets Olga (Ania Taylor-Joy), a Slav who was recently enslaved to slavery in Iceland. “Your power can break men’s bones, but I have the cunning to break their minds,” she tells him, and the two finally come closer. Hamlet learns that Fiolnir is no longer king of the North Atlantic and now commands only a modest outpost on the side of an Icelandic mountain. The time has come, he decides, to take his revenge.

Starring Alexander Skarsgard and Anya Taylor-Joy The North.Focus features

As Amleth sets in motion this plot, The North exchanges the majestic bearing and brutality of its first third with a center that burns more slowly. Although his classic style still owes a considerable debt to Scandinavian cinema legends such as Ingmar Bergman and Carl Theodore Dreyer, The North looks more like Eggers’s loyalty to Werner Herzog Aguirre, the wrath of Godinfusing landscapes with an awful presence that justifies the spiral mental states of those who are foolish enough to try to tame them.

“ONE triumph cinematic vision of brutal violence “.

Egers is clearly fascinated by the duality of the physical and spiritual realms in Scandinavian culture, and depicts both in vivid detail. Valhalla’s eyes are on Hamlet and his attempt to obtain a mythical blade forces him to a point where he emerges underground, where the boundaries between life and after death are even more blurred. The director finds an imposing natural fit for this focus amidst Iceland’s volcanic landscapes, all raging under icy mountains, a landscape that feels as pristine as all the magic and myth that lies within it.

Eggers is lucky to have Skarsg .rd in the lead role. Physically irreconcilable and possessed by a unique determination, the Swedish actor radiates Amleth’s rage, but retains a skillful enough advantage as a performer to overshadow his expressions with a more complaining anxiety and self-doubt. Like co-star Taylor-Joy, whose eerie accent magnifies her own film, Skarsgνrd is one of those fearless actors who wanders most in the dark. He is a rare protagonist who can convey the strange, sympathetic innocence of a character they first saw sinking an ax into a horse, biting a human ear and screaming at the moon like a wild animal, but such is the power of Skarsgard. .

But mainly, The North is recorded as a triumph of the cinematic vision of brute violence. Atmospheric and consistent, they are wonderful shootings and powerful interpretations, favoring a funeral development for his revenge odyssey (a shift from the escalating hysteria of Egers’s previous films) that emphasizes only the mythical qualities of the film. Moviegoers are not familiar with The witch and The lighthouse may be taken by surprise by his savagery The Northhis bloodshed, and his deliberately strange marriage of all his blood, fire, and sorrow with a glittering spiritual realm depicted without reservation. But for those who are already in love with the strictly controlled and fascinating tales of Eggers, it will not break the spell.

The North in cinemas Friday 22 April.

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