After watching the trailer for Robert Eggers’ third full-length feature, The Northman, I can see why it'd be easy for some to get the idea that this is just another testosterone-fueled journey of revenge. I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. While Eggers certainly uses the genre conventions we’re used to seeing in most Viking films/movies about a fallen king's birthright, he nonetheless undercuts the patriarchal cycle of violence in an astounding way, showing how tales of glory and conquest are nothing more than childish fantasies that ultimately hide the ugly face behind the mask of power.
Along with very historically-accurate worldbuilding, a penchant of Eggers, the film is also led by stunning performances from Alexander Skarsgård and Anya Taylor-Joy—who also starred in Eggers’ 2015 debut, The Witch. Skarsgård’s primal fury is on full display in almost every one of the scenes he’s in, very often half-lit by fire. Taylor-Joy’s performance is virtuosic in its emotional range, and her moon-lit nature scenes really help balance the tone of the movie and bring a humanity to its core that really helps bring home what Eggers is trying to say about masculinity, glory, violence and power. I’ve touched on it, but the cinematography in this film was also astounding. All of Eggers’ films are so purposeful in how they’re lit, built and shot, and that’s no different here. The lighting is astounding, and there’re a few camera movements that are simply mind-bending.
It’s fair to say this is the best offering we’ve yet to get from this director. I almost feel bad for only giving it an honorable mention on my ’10 films to watch in 2022’ list (which as of yet has NOT missed). It’s usually bullshit when people say this, but I’m serious: you should watch this film in theaters if you can. It’s made to be seen on as big of a screen as possible. A must watch!