MOVIE PREVIEW – Robert Eggers’ upcoming Viking epic The Northman is due in 2022. Now we’ve gathered all the information we know about the film, whose origins were also the basis for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. “To be or not to be, that is the question…”
Robert Eggers soon established himself as one of the most essential, unmissable directors in the business. In fact, with only two films to his name, his work is already recognisable. His directorial debut, The Witch, received critical acclaim and a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes for its unique style, story and aesthetic. Its 2019 sequel, The Lighthouse, earned the same rating. Both films were produced under the auspices of A24, an independent production company that gained a reputation in the 2010s for its marketing capability and support of filmmakers’ creative expression.
In 2022, his third and most extensive project to date will be released: the epic The Northman. Eggers has been working on the movie since 2019, but this time without A24. The film was temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 epidemic but has since been put back on track for an April 2022 release. The picture sees its aesthetic this time in an action thriller instead of a horror. The young director has a lot on his plate in this film with big names and a budget estimated at $60 million. With that said, here’s what we know about The Northman’s cast, plot and everything else.
The story: what is The Northman about?
Eggers once again turns to true legends for cinematic inspiration. Based on the “History of the Danes” in Books 3 and 4 of Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum, The Northman follows Viking Prince Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) as he sets out to fulfil a lifelong ambition: to avenge his royal father after witnessing his murder by his uncle and reclaim his birthright: the throne. (This story, incidentally, is said to have inspired William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.) Of course, Eggers’ film will not be an exact retelling of Amleth’s story. Instead, it takes some of the darker elements of the source material and forges a new kind of story out of it.
The Northman will follow a single theme: bloody, brutal revenge against those who wronged Amleth. We can expect internal struggles as he is faced with two paths to choose from: love for his family or hatred for his enemies.
The confirmed cast of The Northman
Alexander Skarsgard leads this Viking bloodbath as Amleth, the uncrowned king. Anya Taylor-Joy plays Olga, the young woman who helps Amleth on his quest for revenge. The Northman will be Taylor-Joy’s second role in an Eggers film and in a role related to Vikings (the first was Viking Quest). Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman will reunite with Skarsgård, star of Big Little Lies, as Amleth’s mother, Queen Gudrun, faces a traumatic fate after being forced to marry the man who killed her husband.
Other big names in the film include Ethan Hawke as King Horwendil and Willem Dafoe as Heimir the Fool, known from The Lighthouse. Claes Bang (BBC’s Dracula) will play the film’s arch-enemy Fjolnir. Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie, who both appeared in The Witch, and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, best known for his role as The Mountain in Game of Thrones, will also appear in the film. Finally, musician and actor Björk will also play the part of the Slavic Queen. Whether her role will be big, small or significant is unknown.
What else can we expect?
Eggers co-wrote The Northman with Iceland’s Sjón to make the script feel authentic to the original setting. Sjón has also worked as a poet, novelist and lyricist, and has proven himself to be a fine writer. His only previous experience of screenwriting was his work on the Icelandic horror film The Whaler’s Massacre in Reykjavik. Eggers’ cinematographer, Jarin Blaschke, also returned for this film. His work has previously earned him an Oscar nomination. If the trailer and the pictures don’t tell you, he’s an excellent filmmaker and knows how to direct a scene. He’s behind some of the best shots in Eggers’ films, from the sombre ‘peek-a-boo’ in The Witch to the disturbingly stitched-together sequences in Lighthouse. The same editor, Louise Ford, edited those films, who edited this new film.
Realism at the top
Having built its reputation on historical and cultural accuracy, moviegoers can expect the same from this Viking epic. A similar emphasis on realism is evident throughout the trailer. It is evident in the way the warriors wear their costumes and the decomposed, severed heads that a certain leader keeps as booty. Eggers also tries to imitate the Nordic cycles and myths on which much of northern European mythology is based. All of this may suggest the more fantastical elements of the film. In particular, Taylor-Joy’s character seems to hear ethereal voices in her head, and Kidman’s character seems almost mythical based on what we have seen.
Eggers is fond of casting doubt in his films as if we can see the characters in his head beginning to lose their grip on reality. It’s safe to expect that The Northman will contain the same mind-bending aspects that everyone has come to know from Eggers’ films.
So The Northman is coming to cinemas this April, and we can’t wait for it.