Director Robert Eggers, who said never when asked if he was thinking of making a movie “set in the present times,” is here with a brand new old-age film that will match his previous films. The director, whom we know with his dark and fantastic visuals like Edgar Allan Poe works, seems to continue to focus on this style. The director, who previously appeared with old England stories, brings us Vikings, which have connections with England due to history. But the starting point of the story is a bit like an order. One day, Alex Skarsgard tells the director that he would love to be in a movie where he could be a Viking. If so, Eggers says, I’ll write you one, and then he rolls up his sleeves and writes The Northman.
Let’s touch on the subject briefly… In the old Grammaticus stories, a person named Amleth is mentioned. Although it is not clear whether he lived or not, his story has somehow survived to the present day. Amleth is a Viking prince loyal to his father. One day, Amleth’s uncle, Fjölnir, as he is called in the movie, kills his father and becomes the new king of his land, taking possession of his mother. Upon this, Amleth, sworn to avenge his father, flees and returns years later to try to fulfill his oath under Odin’s testimony.
First of all, as I mentioned above, Amleth is a character in Grammaticus’s stories whose existence is not sure. The original story is very different from the one Eggers told. To begin with, Amleth is much more intelligent than the movie portrays. He also takes his revenge much differently than in the film. However, the director describes Amleth as a wild animal devoid of intelligence, as he will do a visual work due to his style. Using this brutality throughout the movie, he tries to get the visuals he wants. There are many rumors about the character of Amleth. One of them is that the Amleth references Shakespeare, enabling him to write Hamlet. However, it is unclear where Shakespeare read Grammaticus or where he heard the story of Amleth. In Shakespeare’s story, Hamlet takes his revenge much more quickly, unlike Amleth. Amleth’s revenge turns into a journey of hatred that will take years.
Again, I would like to give 1-2 more details about the movie. In the film, we hear that Fjölnir was expelled to Iceland. His lands were taken away by Harald Fairhair. Harald Fairhair is the character we know from Vikings, who stayed for a long time in the series. Harald specifically said that he wanted to take every place in the series. He’s apparently also visited Fjölnir’s lands. Fjölnir is said to be one of the first Vikings in Iceland. In Season 5 of the series, saw that Floki went to Iceland. Although Floki spent two winters there, he could not find anyone. This may be because Floki got there before they did. The movie takes place in 912, but it was 868 when Floki set out. Another detail, although probably wrong, is that the character of Olga in the movie is Olga, who started the Russian Empire. It is written that Olga, who is referred to as Kievan Rus, is of Viking descent.
Robert Eggers said that “I don’t want to work in such conditions again” for the film. The director, who previously worked with A24, obviously had some problems with Universal. For example, Eggers wanted some berserks to be naked, but the studio didn’t allow it. Despite these, we can clearly see that the film has a style that is quite opposite to Universal studios but very similar to Eggers cinema. It is clear as day what the director actually wants to do throughout the film. The ancient land peoples, especially the Vikings, had severe beliefs in their roots, believing in many fantastic beings and stories and even claiming to have seen them. Robert Eggers preferred to visualize their beliefs. Throughout the movie, we encounter fantastical elements that Amleth believes in. The film has many details, such as fighting with a Living Dead while taking the sword called “The Living Dead.” Mistaking Olga for a Valkyrie even though Olga saved him, learning the truths from the witch that he had forgotten and could not accept in the depths of his heart.
Although the movie contains some visually exciting scenes, unfortunately, the story is not as interesting as the visuals. The director’s emphasis on visuality due to his style creates serious tempo problems in the story. Even though the revenge stories have become clichés, the characters’ ordeal can be interesting until they reach their revenge. Unfortunately, the road in Amleth’s story is mountainous like Iceland, has lots up and downs. There are serious tempo problems, especially in the movie’s second half. Although the introduction of Amleth and the story of his arrival to Iceland made me watch in curiosity, the decisions he made afterward pose a serious tempo problem.
When Vikings first started, it was designed as a mini-season and was about explaining Viking culture. Especially after the 4th season, although the series went into war mode, the first 3 seasons were in a structure that tried to explain the Viking culture. Eggers also attempted to show the Viking culture abundantly in the movie. However, this cultural exhibition is one of the biggest reasons for the slowdown. Within 2 hours, we have the chance to watch the details of their culture in many scenes. We observe certain cultural activities, from games to dances to ceremonies. As lovely as they are all portrayed, it is clear that they cause a flow problem as a result.
To sum it up… The Northman is a film that tries to visualize the Vikings’ fundamental beliefs with fantastic things. But even though it has good visuals, the story bored me because of the choice of story’s progress. I was seriously bored, especially in the movie’s second half, because of those ups and downs. Unfortunately, I watched a much calmer movie than expected. I expected a wilder, more aggressive, and gruesome film. I don’t say anything to the acting, the shooting. All great. But for me, the most essential thing that makes a movie a movie is the script. Director Eggers, unfortunately, remained weak in narration while making his style speak. The film, which will hit the hearts of those who care about visuals, seems to upset those who focus on the story, like me.