The Northman Review – IGN

The Northman will be released in theaters on April 22, 2022.

Two films are at war within The Northman, the latest film by The Witch and The Lighthouse director Robert Eggers. The first is an exciting sensory experience that resembles ecstasy that envelops you for the first half hour. The second is a historical epic of revenge that feels much clearer – in its presentation, than in what unfolds in reality – while at the same time feeling hesitant in depicting violence and sensuality. Despite the shift between these two modes of expression (one much more effective than the other), Eggers’s film still ends up on the right side of the enjoyable, especially considering the big Hollywood studios (in this case, Universal and the subsidiary of Focus Features) so rarely distribute this kind of story – even the relatively sterile version that ends up on the screen.

The fairy tale, on paper, is simple. After seeing his father, King Aurvandill War-Raven (Ethan Hawke), betrayed and murdered by his ruthless uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang), the Viking warrior Prince Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) returns many years later, in the form of of the slave. to quench his thirst for revenge and save his mother, Queen Gudrun (Nicole Kidman). However, The Northman works best when the plot dynamics are thought-provoking and lukewarm in the smoky, shady atmosphere created by Eggers and his collaborators. Fjölnir’s betrayal, instead of a simple detail nestling a truncated prologue, reaches the end of a long section (one of the many chapters with its own title on screen), where the characters are introduced in large strokes, in which a young Hamlet (played by Oscar Novak) is introduced to his royal origins and in which the themes of the film about foreboding and destiny come to the fore.

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The music, by Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough, is absolutely basic, revolving around folk strings reminiscent of King Aurvandill’s reign as he returns from the war and percussions so heavy – in darker and more spiritual pieces – that with the right theatrical sound system, the bass is sure to rattle your chest. An early scene, with Willem Dafoe in his very brief appearance as a shaman as a jester, sees both Aurvandill and Amleth embodying hounds as they are trapped around a fire on all fours, screaming as they touch the animal instincts beside them. -next with strong hallucinations of their distinguished ancestors. It’s just one of many sequences where the thunderous score of Carolan and Gainsborough can make you want to tap your chest and engage in an on-screen ritual (certainly helps Jarin Blaschke’s cinemas flooded with deep shadows) and flickering flames, it is as eerie as it is attractive).

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This sense of ritual permeates the rest of the story. As a young Hamlet escapes his uncle’s clutches, he begins to repeat the phrase, “I will avenge you, Father.” I will save you, mother. I will kill you, Fjölnir ‘to himself again and again, even as an adult, until he becomes a sacred mantra. This mission, however, ends up becoming morally complex thanks to some amazing peculiarities as the story unfolds. Until these complications arise, the very concept of bloodshed – seemingly just bloodshed in particular – takes on a spiritual inclination. As various moon visions force Hamlet to retrieve a mythical sword in search of him, the long and vengeful path in front of him becomes entangled with the notions of royal destiny in the early stages of the film and soon even the violence becomes hers. form. of the twisted ritual.

While The Northman’s wonderful, dreamy sequences feel uprooted by time, his more traditional backstage scenes tend to be difficult. They do not take up much of the initial 30 minutes, but as soon as the plot begins and adult Amleth begins his journey – after much time as a violent robber, among a group of raiders chasing wolves and bears, leading to even more attractive primordial party scenes – the film then begins to settle into a more typical Hollywood narrative. This is not an inherent problem, especially since the romantic element she introduces also has a mystical inclination (Anya Taylor-Joy plays Olga, a connoisseur whose occult beliefs and prayers invoking natural forces blend well with bloodthirsty disposition of Amleth). However, as the story begins to be presented less through shadows, music, body language and dreams, and more through dialogue, the film’s weaknesses as a classic drama begin to accumulate. Throughout the almost 140 minute run, too many exchanges feel hurriedly assembled and poorly constructed, with minimal thought of relationships or rhythm.

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Eggers is at his best when defending tradition, such as when he detaches his camera from moments of standard coverage and instead chooses to go into individual close-ups where the characters are essentially addressing the audience (often feeling, at these moments, as if they look at their souls as the camera swings towards them). Instead, the blockchain when the characters exchange words feels cramped, with a look at the plot rather than the emotion, and the line-by-line cuts they feel clearly uninspired. There is not always something strange in the construction of these scenes, but for a film whose most striking moments play like elementary vignettes from silent cinema (perhaps even more so than the black-and-white production of Eggers 4: 3 The Lighthouse), frequent returns to Editing for continuity and directing for dialogue in a purely logistical sense, suck the air out of the room.

So much of the violence is implied, just off-screen, but little is felt.

Some of these more traditional moments unfold in large shots and manage to capture a great deal of attention, but when used in action scenes, the shortcomings of the film as a Hollywood special are also evident. The North has plenty of evil to unfold on the sidelines, especially as a story whose “hero” is just as ruthless as his villains. But too many of these cases feel bloodless, despite the frequent stabbings and cuts. so much of the violence is implied, just off-screen, but little is felt. The nudity and sexuality of the film feel equally boring. In both cases, the camera records bodies at their most vulnerable – either in moments of passion or in moments of bloodshed – but only for a while, before being cut off.

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It is good that the performances manage to reflect at least some of these ideas, which concern the line between violence and passion, even if the North is reluctant to ponder them in a substantial aesthetic sense. Skarsgård, for example, feels really torn between his divinely inspired plans for revenge and his newly discovered lust and affection for Olga. Bang, meanwhile, is both the most silent performer and the most enticing, using his silence to introduce hidden, thoughtful layers into Fjölnir that all they do is complicate Amleth’s monotonous ambition. Kidman especially keeps the film afloat when she leaves behind the most ethereal scenes and is even at the center of the rare dialogue exchange that feels really compassionate and nauseous, as she utilizes some delightfully disturbing instincts. And of course, reference must be made to Fjölnir’s indignant heir, Thórir (Gustav Lindh), a minor character, but whose abhorrent presence makes him the harshest cinematic fail-son from Iosef to John Wick.

Despite its less effective elements becoming more and more apparent, The Northman retains a sense of possibility and unpredictability, thanks to the spiritual concepts at its core. Whatever Hamlet learns or learns or experiences in the flesh – whatever kindness compels him, on a human level, to deviate from his vengeful path – sits beside his crazy visions of glory and his desire to fulfill a self-destructive destiny in a way that finally makes The Northman a tragedy. It is, however, a very graphic tragedy that, in its most effective moments, draws you into pulsating customs by the fire, flooded by drums that spring from Valhalla itself. It is occasionally worth tolerating scenes that are destructive compared to the feeling.

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