Review: ‘The Northman’ Builds a Mythical World

By Brandon Labecki, Current Staff

“The Northman” is another great addition to what is best described as a collection of modern myths behind Robert Eggers’ filmography.

The revenge plot of “The Northman,” which is currently in theaters and streaming, takes influence from the story of Amleth, a tale told in the book, “The Danish History” and is explicitly not inspired by Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” as it may first seem.

More narratively cohesive than the films that preceded it (“The VVitch” and “The Lighthouse”), “The Northman,” keeps the same sense of mysticism and supernatural worldbuilding that has now become a staple of Eggers’ style on the big screen.

The film places the audience in the cultural hold of the time period, starting in A.D. 895 and like “The VVitch” or “The Lighthouse” before it, the movie explores a basic premise set with a mythological backdrop that brings to life the beliefs and religions of the world. The possibilities of witches, spirits and magically-imbued weapons are not seen as superstition in a historical context, but realities of the world for the audience to observe alongside the characters in the film, creating a fresh and interesting environment to explore.

“The Northman” is a film perfect for introducing a wider audience to art-house style works, and Eggers takes full advantage of his ability to create something like this within the industry of Hollywood, using actors from his other films like Willem Dafoe, Kate Dickie and Anya Taylor-Joy, as well as other recognizable actors such as Ethan Hawke and Nicole Kidman.

(Images are official publicity material.)

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