The Northman Review – Robert Eggers’ ambitious and implausible Viking epic | Action and adventure movies

The American director Robert Eggers established himself as a singular cinematic voice with the macabre 17th-century “New England Folktale” Witchand follow it with Lighthouse, deep dreams of mermaids and murder. Both films have the atmosphere you can flavorand taking advantage of their relatively low budget, conjuring a vast world from few resources.

Enter Northernersa Viking epic, the budget is reportedly over $70m, which comes like a head-shattering mashup parrotwolf, Hamlet (Eggers and Shakespeare share the source of the Scandinavian legend) and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising, told in a snarl tone that was more Dark Knight than Green Knight. Co-written with the Icelandic poet Sjón, and described by Eggers as an attempt to make a “definitive Viking film”, it’s as ambitious as it is absurd and, at times, boring – filled with muddled epithets of revenge and fate that whisper, mutter. , or scream in curdling blood. This is a story of children “born to savagery”, where tormented people deny the joy of plunging into icy waters in search of a fight, while mothers-to-be howl like banshees at the gods; a story with chapters that take place “Years Later”, and that leads us to “Hell’s Gate”. Understatement is not on the menu.

We open in Orkney/Shetland-nearby the fictional kingdom of Hrafnsey in AD895, Here, King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke) is murdered by his half-brother Fjölnir (Claes Bang) in front of his young son, Amleth (Oscar Novak), who then witnesses his mother, Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman), is taken away screaming. “I will avenge you father; I will save you mother; I will kill you Fjölnir!” becomes the war cry of Amleth, who grows up to be an iron-hearted wrath, played with muscle weakness by Alexander Skarsgård, in the lands of Rus. An impressive extended shot (one of many) tracks a hangover attack on a Slavic village, delivering an ax to the head (character di Northerners identified by the missing facial part) as a fowl wing in the background amid the Pythonesque mud.

An encounter with a visionary seer (a Björk with an elaborate headdress) sets Amleth on a detour to Iceland, branding himself a slave to infiltrate his uncle’s circle. Once there, he gored a man to a pulp while playing a sport that looks like a cross between quidditch and rollerball, thereby winning the approval of his estranged mother, who now lives with Fjölnir. It’s a setting she seems to enjoy, even though Amleth knows she’s just acting – and there is many acting in Northerners: some frown, some frown, some fat, some shout – all delivered in ridiculous-sounding Nordic English (a nuance Last Duelaccent salad). Amleth also acquires an Arthurian style sword that can only be wielded under foreseeable circumstances, and cooperates with Olga (Witch’breakout star, Anya Taylor-Joy), who told her: “Your power breaks men’s bones. I have the cunning to destroy their minds. ”

Eggers has always had a shrewd eye for strange crossovers between this world and the next, mixing understated tactics with otherworldly dreams in impressive fashion. Quality is at the forefront Northerners, which sometimes reminds me of the vivid comic book aesthetic of Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez City of Sinnot least when the monochrome color of the evening exterior is broken by the golden glow of the flame-lit interior – a central motif.

But for all its visual coups (stunning scenery, evocatively captured by cinematographer Jarin Blaschke) and multi-layered soundtrack (composers Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough put us right there in the landscape), there’s something oddly sluggish about Amleth’s bloody mission. While the Norns-of-fate narrative might make for some reversal of fortune and sympathy, there are a few truly extraordinary quirks that make Eggers’ first two features such a treat. What craziness is here is not the north-northwest variety but more in keeping with Darren Aronofsky’s crazy blockbuster spectacle. Noah.

Last week Observer, Eggers spoke of the pressure to deliver “the most entertaining Robert Eggers film I could make”. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the result felt unconventional as it led to the final in between. Conan the Barbarian and Anakin’s last moments from Sith’s Revengewith just a little manly bonfire wrestling woman in love. The end result can happily play double bill well Zardoz or Thor. Whether it will prove a strength or weakness with the all-important multiplex audience remains to be seen.

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