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The Northman

Release Date: April 22, 2022
From visionary director Robert Eggers comes The Northman, an action-filled epic that follows a young Viking prince on his quest to avenge his father’s murder.

A Viking prince seeks revenge against his murderous uncle in . In AD 895, Viking King Aurvandil War-Raven () returns home from battle to his Queen Gudrún () and young son Amleth. Shortly after participating in a coming-of-age ceremony for Amleth conducted by Heimir the Fool (), Aurvandil is betrayed and murdered by his brother Fjölnir (), with Amleth managing to escape away. Many years later, Amleth () has grown into a Viking warrior and he is told by a Seeress (Björk) that he must remember his oath to see vengeance for his father. Learning that Fjölnir is now living as a farmer in Iceland, Amleth pretends to be a slave and with the assistance of Olga of the Birch Forest () begins to enact his blood plan of revenge.

The Northman is the latest film from co-writer and director Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse), which is loosely based on the Scandinavian legend of Amleth, which in turn was the direct inspiration for William Shakespeare's “Hamlet.” The film is a very bloody revenge story, with a few supernatural elements based on Norse mythology. Sneaking onto his murderous uncle Fjölnir's farm pretending to be a slave, Amleth has to wait for the right moment to act out his revenge, using the mythical night blade. He is assisted in his quest for revenge by fellow slave Olga, who happens to be a budding sorcerous.

There is a point in The Northman, where you are led to question whether Amleth's quest for revenge is a noble one or merely part of a bloodlust he inherited from his less-than-noble father Aurvandil. Indeed the second act revelation that Fjölnir is living a quiet farm life instead of taking up Aurvandil's throne makes you question the motivations for the initial betrayal, which results in a very grey moral divide between Amleth and Fjölnir.

While the term is a bit overused to describe filmmakers with a certain visual flair, The Northman is definitely the more visionary film Robert Eggers has made thus far, with the film featuring some exquisitely shot set-pieces, particularly the silhouetted climatic battle set beside a volcano or the “Gates of Hel,” as one of the film's many chapter headings describes it. Eggers is also assembling a fine company of recurring actors, as The Northman features both Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) and Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse) returning in central roles, with the film also featuring appearances by Eggers alumni and .

While The Northman ends up being a solid Shakespearian Norse revenge tale, I will ultimately say that I prefer Robert Eggers's earlier films better, particularly his debut film The Witch, which is still his best in my opinion, despite Eggers himself having criticized the film lately. However, those coming into The Northman expecting a bloody revenge saga are not going to end up disappointed.

Trailer for The Northman

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.